Drinks

Cel Out

An ode to Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda
Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Soda
Photo: Tasting Table

Forget pumpkin spice—as far as I'm concerned, the brisk air means it's matzo ball soup season.

And for my money, nothing pairs better with said soup than a tart, fizzy Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda. Cel-Ray gets little love, even from deli-culture enthusiasts: Why on earth would you want to drink a soda that tastes like celery, especially when there are favorites like Black Cherry or Cream Soda around? But a Black Cherry soda is a Black Cherry soda, while Cel-Ray is something all its own.

I first tasted Cel-Ray on a dare, expecting it to be a culinary oddity one must be born into to understand, like Marmite or salty licorice. What I actually discovered was the first soda I couldn't stop drinking. The secret is that Cel-Ray doesn't really taste like celery. It's tangier than ginger ale, but still tastes light, herbal and refreshing, closer to seltzer than soda.

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If it tastes slightly medicinal, that's because it once was: In the 1800s, the drink was shopped around Brooklyn as Dr. Brown's Celery Tonic. Today it's pretty easy to find in New York, Florida and parts of the West Coast, but of course Cel-Ray is available on Amazon, too.

If anything, Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray is a reminder that sodas need not be "artisanal" to be interesting. You can still find something new in a $1 can.

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Soda

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