Obscure Celery ‘Tonic’ has Rich Tradition and Loyal Kosher Fans
Dr. Brown’s line of sodas totals six flavors but it’s the unique Cel-Ray flavor that helped launch the brand in Brooklyn’s Jewish Community in 1869. The Dr. Brown brand is Kosher and primarily found in delicatessens and specialty grocers.
While the company bottles and cans Black Cherry, Cream , Orange, Ginger Ale and Root Beer flavors its the lightly sugared, vegetal flavor of celery with a slightly peppery fizz that has been the favorite soda to pair with Deli foods from pastrami and corned beef to Kosher Hot Dogs and knishes.
Cel-Ray was originally developed by a doctor who treated immigrant children in NY. The seltzer known at the time as a ‘tonic’ helped children with digestion and contained celery seeds and sugar. Dr. Brown’s was sold as a bottled soda beginning 1886 and within a few years had become a staple in ethnic New York restaurants.
It was the first Kosher soda and the only and preferred soft drink of the Jewish Community until 1930 when Coca-Cola became certified as Kosher and in the 1930’s Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray was so popular that it earned the nickname “Jewish Champagne’.
Each of the six Dr. Brown’s flavors are marketed in a package designed by Herb Lubalin that has a New York vignette taken from old prints, to emphasize the brand’s old-time New York roots .