A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 13, 2005
Jewish Champagne (Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Soda, seltzer)
"Jewish champagne" is the nickname for both Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Soda/Tonic and for seltzer. "Description of celery tonic: Jewish champagne" was printed in the "On Broadway" syndicated newspaper column by Walter Winchell in May 1939. It's not known when seltzer was first called "Jewish champagne," but it was mentioned in the article "The Spritzing World of Seltzer" by Mary Ellen Strote in the Los Angeles (CA) Times on November 16, 1975.

Jewish delicatessens served heavy meats, such as pastrami and corned beef. Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray went better with these dishes than sweet sodas.


Wikipedia: Cel-Ray
Cel-Ray is a celery flavored soft drink from Dr Brown's. It is fairly easy to find in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and in South Florida, but rather obscure elsewhere.
(...)
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."

6 May 1939, Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, "On Broadway" by Walter Winchell, pg. 3, col. 2:
Description of celery tonic: Jewish champagne.

16 November 1975, Los Angeles (CA) Times, "The Spritzing World of Seltzer" by Mary Ellen Strote, Home magazine, pg. 65, col. 1:
Seltzer, excelsior water, sparkling water, soda water, siphon water, club soda, Jewish champagne -- all fancy names for what amounts to a 2-cent plain.

17 March 1976, Daily News, (New York, NY), "Laughter, Dancing Spice Purim Feast for the Blind" by Peter Coutros, pg. 4JL, col. 2:
"It's homecoming for them," Sam Levenson said, pouring himself a glass of Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Tonic ("Jewish champagne").

Google Books
The Official J.A.P. Handbook
By Anna Sequoia
New York, NY: New American Library
1982
Pg, 28:
Seltzer is Jewish champagne.

Google Groups: rec.food.cuisine.jewish
recipe for "Russian Dressing" and Seltzer Note
Brian Mailman
10/21/00
(...)
Having some fun here and just leaving through I find "Seltzer... (much snippage).... In New York seltzer was sometimes called 'Jewish champagne' because of its popularity among Jews, who called it 'grepsvasser,' (belch water,) and who drank it to help the digestion of their fatty diet and to adhere to kosher rules against mixing meats with milk. In the early part of this century in New York one would to a candy store and ask for a "two-cents-plain," a glass of seltzer for two pennies."

Google Books
The Matzo Ball Heiress
By Laurie Gwen Shapiro
London, UK: Harlequin Enterprises, Limited
2006
Pg. 208:
"Can I try the Jewish champagne?"

"The Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray? I'd give you a sip, but it's not for the uninitiated."

"What exactly is it?"

"Soda from celery."

Google Books
Encyclopedia of Jewish Food
By Gil Marks
New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
2010
Pg. ?:
This mildly sweetened carbonated beverage with an acquired tart taste became popular with New York Jews in the 1930s; it shares the nickname "Jewish champagne" with plain seltzer. Cel-Ray Tonic became ubiquitous at New York delicatessens, where it became a better counterpoint to the heavy, briny meats than sweeter, fruit-flavored sodas.

New York (NY) Times
Answers to Questions About New York
F.Y.I.

By MICHAEL POLLAK OCT. 14, 2011
That Old Celery Fizz
Q. I recently overheard a conversation about food in which someone mentioned “Jewish Champagne.” What is that?

A. (...) Closer to home, “Jewish Champagne” is a reference, dating from the 1930s, to seltzer or, more specifically, to Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Soda, a carbonated drink flavored with celery seeds and sweetened with sugar. Ethel Merman and Guy Lombardo were among the celebrities who swore by it.

“On the order of ginger ale, it really isn’t as bizarre as it sounds,” Arthur Schwartz wrote in “Arthur Schwartz’s New York City Food” (2004, Stewart, Tabori & Chang). “It’s incredibly refreshing and thirst-quenching and became the perfect foil to Jewish delicatessen, which tends to be salty. In fact, the soda was sold only in delis until the 1980s. Now, you can buy Cel-Ray in most New York City supermarkets and some other cities’ stores.”

(Trademark)
Word Mark DR. BROWN'S CEL-RAY DB "ONE AND ONLY ONE" SINCE 1869 ORIGNAL CELERY GENUINE THE ONLY GENUINE A CARBONATED CELERY BEVERAGE
Goods and Services (EXPIRED) IC 032. US 045. G & S: CELERY FLAVORED SOFT DRINK.
FIRST USE: 19720421. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19720421
Mark Drawing Code (3) DESIGN PLUS WORDS, LETTERS, AND/OR NUMBERS
Design Search Code 240501 260117 260701
Serial Number 72422679
Filing Date April 28, 1972
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Registration Number 0971946
Registration Date October 30, 1973
Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN BEVERAGE CORP. CORPORATION NEW YORK P.O. BOX 160 119TH ST. AND 18TH AVE COLLEGE POINT NEW YORK 11356
Assignment Recorded ASSIGNMENT RECORDED
Prior Registrations 0509418;0592801;AND OTHERS
Disclaimer ALL WORDING EXCEPT "DR. BROWN'S," "CEL-RAY," AND THE LETTERS "DB" ARE DISCLAIMED APART FROM THE MARK AS SHOWN, WITHOUT WAIVER AND RETAINING ANY AND ALL COMMON LAW RIGHTS IN THE ENTIRE MARK.
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR).
Other Data THE NAME "DR. BROWN'S" IS FANCIFUL.
Live/Dead Indicator DEAD

(Trademark)
Word Mark DR. BROWN'S CEL-RAY FLAVOR
Goods and Services (EXPIRED) IC 030. US 045. G & S: FLAVORING EXTRACTS USED IN THE MANUFACTURE OF CARBONATED NONALCOHOLIC MALTLESS BEVERAGES SOLD AS SOFT DRINKS, AND SYRUPS USED BY OPERATORS OF SODA FOUNTAINS AND THE LIKE IN THE MIXING OF SOFT DRINK BEVERAGES.
FIRST USE: 19320503. USED IN ANOTHER FORM FIRST USED PRIOR TO MAY 3, 1932, AND IN COMMERCE PRIOR TO MAY 3, 1932, AS SHOWN; AND SINCE 1886 AS TO THE NAME "DR. BROWN'S" ON SOFT DRINKS.
FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19320503
Mark Drawing Code (5) WORDS, LETTERS, AND/OR NUMBERS IN STYLIZED FORM
Serial Number 71649625
Filing Date July 1, 1953
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Registration Number 0592800
Registration Date July 20, 1954
Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN BEVERAGE CORPORATION CORPORATION DELAWARE 118 N. 11TH ST. BROOKLYN NEW YORK
Assignment Recorded ASSIGNMENT RECORDED
Prior Registrations 0063371;0064229;0183212;0228759;0293635;0509418;0511842;0511843;0511847
Disclaimer NO CLAIM IS MADE TO THE EXCLUSIVE USE OF THE WORD "FLAVOR" APART FROM THE MARK AS SHOWN.
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Register PRINCIPAL-2(F)-IN PART
Affidavit Text SECT 15.
Renewal 1ST RENEWAL 19740720
Live/Dead Indicator DEAD
Distinctiveness Limitation Statement AS TO THE "DR. BROWN'S"

(Trademark)
Word Mark DR. BROWN'S CEL-RAY
Goods and Services (EXPIRED) IC 032. US 045. G & S: CELERY BEVERAGE SOLD AS A MALTLESS SOFT DRINK.
FIRST USE: 19300000. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19300000
Mark Drawing Code (5) WORDS, LETTERS, AND/OR NUMBERS IN STYLIZED FORM
Serial Number 71541630
Filing Date November 19, 1947
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Registration Number 0511843
Registration Date July 5, 1949
Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN BEVERAGE CORPORATION CORPORATION DELAWARE 118 NORTH 11TH STREET BROOKLYN NEW YORK
(LAST LISTED OWNER) PEPSI-COLA BOTTLING COMPANY OF NEW YORK, INC. CORPORATION ASSIGNEE OF PENNSYLVANIA 112-02 15H AVENUE COLLEGE POINT NEW YORK 11356
Assignment Recorded ASSIGNMENT RECORDED
Prior Registrations 0063371;0064229;0082628;0183212;0228759;0283635
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Register PRINCIPAL-2(F)
Affidavit Text SECT 15.
Renewal 2ND RENEWAL 19901025
Other Data SAID NAME "DR. BROWN'S" BEING FANCIFUL.
Live/Dead Indicator DEAD
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Thursday, January 13, 2005 • Permalink