Celery Is The Unique Flavor Pairing For Smoky Mezcal Cocktails

It's a relatively common sight to see a celery stalk garnishing the rim of a Bloody Mary, perhaps even some mulled celery inside of a gin gimlet or a martini, but the smoky notes of mezcal may actually pair well with the sugary yet herbal undertones of a celery soda. That's right: not celery but celery soda, a concoction that you may have never even heard of if you've never gone out of your way to look for unusual soda flavors. Enter Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray, the celery soda.

Word is that a bartender named Danny Childs for the Farm and Fisherman Tavern created a cocktail that mixes mezcal with celery soda called the Cel Rey. That slight alternate spelling hints at the fact that the celery soda in the recipe is a homemade concoction that Child brews using ginger bug, a starter culture used in making fermented beverages. However, if you want to make your own mezcal and celery soda cocktail, you can always seek out Dr. Brown's classic.

What is celery soda, anyway?

Mezcal cocktails are already a bit tricky to mix due to the signature alcohol's sheer smokiness, and you may not even know what kind of flavor profile celery soda has. People describe the taste as close to ginger ale but zestier, with floral and peppery undertones. It doesn't have a particularly strong celery taste since it's liberally sweetened, but the herbal notes appropriately compliment a mezcal, which is usually paired with ingredients in the same sort of palette.

Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray dates back to 1868 and is still a staple of the brand, which is as synonymous with the New York Jewish deli experience as rye bread and matzo ball soup. However, other Dr. Brown's picks like black cherry, cream soda, ginger ale, and root beer are just as popular as their celery-flavored cousin, and their sweetness all pair perfectly with the salty, fatty goodness of a pastrami or corned beef sandwich and the vinegary bite of a sour pickle. Dr. Brown, who may have not even been a real person, reportedly mixed seltzer with celery seeds as a way to encourage the nutrition of Jewish immigrant children. Although you probably shouldn't expect a Cel Rey cocktail to be a miracle cure, you might find the soda snuggles right up to mezcal, creating a delicious cocktail you may find yourself coming back to time and time again.

How to do celery and mezcal right

If you want to try mixing Cel-Ray and mezcal at home, there are a few caveats to know. Danny Childs' homemade soda has less sugar than the Dr. Brown's variant, so you may want to drop in some celery bitters if you aren't up for crafting your own carbonated beverage. Like in any other celery cocktail, it's imperative that you add a stalk as a garnish, too. You want to make sure your drink is classy whether it's made with homemade artisanal celery soda or good old Dr. Brown's.

There are a couple of other recipes that incorporate celery with mezcal, so perhaps the trend is spreading further than upscale farm-to-table restaurants. Namely, a drink called an Infinity Pool mixes mezcal with celery juice and bitters alongside the apéritif Lillet blanc, simple syrup, and lemon juice. It's definitely heavier on the bitter side of the tasting rainbow, but try adding celery soda and see what happens. There's also the Celery Gringo, which uses both mezcal and celery's usual cocktail partner gin. The recipe calls for an already sweet celery syrup, so there's probably nothing wrong with substituting Cel-Ray on Dr. Brown's orders.