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Dr. Brown’s Celery Tonic was, according to the company, first produced in 1868 in Brooklyn, New York. It was served in New York delicatessens starting in 1869 and sold as a bottled soda starting in 1886. The Food and Drug Administration objected to its being called a “tonic”, and in the 1900s the name was changed to Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray (soda). Cel-Ray was so popular in the 1930s among New York City's Jewish community that it earned the nickname "Jewish Champagne". Dr. Brown’s briefly produced a diet Cel-Ray, but it was discontinued due to low sales. Other “celery tonics"/"celery sodas” were produced in the 1890s, but only Dr. Brown’s celery product remains today.
Dr. Brown’s sodas are kosher and can be found in many delicatessens.
Cel-Ray was mentioned in the Seinfeld season eight episode, "The Pothole." It was also mentioned in the US television show Gilmore Girls, Season seven, episode five, "The Great Stink." It was also mentioned in the non-fiction work Serpico. It was also mentioned in the Bunheads television show episode "Blank Up, It's Time". It was featured in an episode of "Brad Tries..." in 2011; Brad Jones thought it was fine on its own, but found it delicious after sipping it following a bite of peanut butter. Cel-Ray was also mentioned in the Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention record albumI, "The Mothers at the Fillmore-1971. The character of Billy Rose (played by James Caan) in the 1975 film Funny Lady also habitually drank celery tonic, as an alternative to alcohol. Finally, it was used as a plot point joining assistant Harriet Smith and senator James Elton in the popular web series Emma Approved, written and directed by the makers of "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries".