Special To The Jewish Week
Soda For The Old At Heart

Why are people hating on this food blogger's Cel-Ray habit?

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I don't know where it started. Perhaps it was with my dad years ago, but whenever I go to a traditional deli I always order a can of Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray. It's a sweet, celery-flavored soda that pairs surprisingly well with meat. I compare it to a sweet version of ginger ale.

Outside a kosher deli, Cel-Ray is quite difficult to find, so I've made it a habit of ordering one at every delicatessen I visit.

Without fail, whenever I order it I get odd looks/stink eyes/puzzled stares from those eating with me. Few are familiar with this bizarre beverage flavor, and when they hear about it, they scoff in disgust. Those who have heard of it write it off as an "old man's drink."

Part of the reason it has this reputation may come from the fact that it was invented in Brooklyn 145 years ago. I'm amazed that this drink's popularity waned after the 1930's, when it was known in New York's Jewish community as "Jewish Champagne," according to Barry Popkin's website, "The Big Apple."

So what happened? When did this awesome product become pushed to the periphery of Jewish taste buds? Maybe it has to do with the decline (or ubiquity) of the notion of a Jewish deli. Our tastes have surely changed, as today's New York Jews tend to opt for sushi, pizza, steak, and salads rather than the "traditional" Jewish foods from New York or even Eastern Europe.

I believe that part of the backlash I'm receiving is because Cel-Ray is not a mainstream product that people are familiar with and our community tends to pooh-pooh items that are foreign.

It's time for us to try new things. Broaden your horizons. Explore the taste buds of the older New York Jewish Kosher restaurant scene along with a pastrami on rye, or my less-conventional favorite, turkey breast on club with cole slaw. 

Dani Klein is the founder of YeahThatsKosher.com, a global Jewish travel and kosher restaurant guide. Klein was named to the Jewish Week's inaugural '36 Under 36' list in 2008. Continue this discussion with Dani on Twitter: @YeahThatsKosher

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Last Update:

03/22/2015 - 09:20


I too love Cel-Ray soda (once called "tonic"). Nothing goes better with a pastrami & corned beef on club. As a diabetic I was very disappointed when diet Cel - Ray always tasted off and was discontinued. Since to my taste buds it is not that sweet, on those rare occasions that I have my very favorite kosher sandwich, it is always accompanied by the Dr. Brown's champagne.When it's not available I " settle" for a Dr. Brown's diet cream or black cherry.

I love Celray soda but they dont make diet Celray anymore, so sad

I also really like Cel-Ray and can rarely find it since I now live in Southern Alabama. Anytime we travel, I look for it, and enjoy it that much more because it is such a rare treat for me. To each his own, but you shouldn't mock it until you have tried it. And for the record, I am a young woman, not an old man!

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