Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray
Celery Soda with Other Natural Flavors



Canned by Canada Dry Bottling Co. of New York, College Point, N.Y. 11356

The Pitch:
Since 1869

The Ingredients:
Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, extract of celery seed with other natural flavors, sodium benzoate (preservative) and caramel color

Spike says:
Can you believe this? Celery soda? I had never seen anything like this. I haven't seen anything like it since either. I picked this up in Manhattan, at some small deli/grocer. Not surprising, eh? Well, it's just what it says, celery soda. Not terribly carbonated, which is a good thing as I wouldn't want celery coming back up. It tastes like ginger ale mixed with celery. It even looks like ginger ale. I tried to give some to my wife and she was about to take a drink, but then she smelled it. After that there was no way she was going to try it. Great, more for me. At first I thought this stuff was just funky. I like celery and the celery seed definitely gives it a celery taste. However, I prefer my celery seed in something like hot german potato salad, not a cool refreshing drink. After most of the can, I can say conclusively that I don't like this and I'm not going to drink it again. It also has a funny aftertaste...kind of leaves a little burn in my mouth. So try it at least once - buy a can to share among 3 or 4 friends so you can say you drank celery soda then don't buy it again.
I won't be buying this again...
Steve K writes in to add:
Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray isn't your thing, but it has a following. It's the One True Beverage to have with that pastrami or corned beef sandwich on rye with mustard, for instance. The only other permissible soda in such situations is Dr. Brown's Black Cherry. They have a decent cream soda and forgettable root beer and orange soda, too. Find a good Jewish deli anywhere in the US, and you'll find Cel-Ray, sometimes referred to generically by old-timers as "celery tonic".

When I spent some time living in Ukraine about ten years ago, I finally understood how Cel-Ray came to be. The western portions of the former Soviet Union (Russia, Ukraine and the Baltics in particular) abound in vegetable-y-tasting carbonated beverages, with kvass as the linchpin, a brewed drink made from fermented rye bread and honey that tastes like a cross between that sweet, dark non-alcoholic malt beverage you find in the Latin-American food aisle of your supermarket, beer, and Cel-Ray. Also, some of the local sodas there have vegetable-y or floral flavors, so I imagine Cel-Ray is some sort of American version of some kind of celery drink from the Old Country.

You can find a wide variety of kvasses (kvasses?) in any Russian-immigrant grocery store. Most, unfortunately, are made from a syrup base these days instead of being brewed, but you can still find a couple of real brewed ones here and there.

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