Cel Rey

Danny Childs | Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Celery Mezcal Soda

Fermented celery soda harmonizes with mezcal and lime juice in Danny Childs’ Cel Rey, a savory stunner created for the Farm and Fisherman Tavern in New Jersey. If you don’t want to make your own soda, use a can of Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray (which inspired Childs’ version), plus a few dashes of celery bitters to make up for the lack of fresh celery flavor in the store-bought soda. And while Childs prefers Rey Campero mezcal for its subtlety, he’s not rigid about it. The salinity and smokiness of the main ingredients will win out regardless.

Note: It is important to use organic ginger if making your own soda, as much of the ginger available in grocery stores has been irradiated, a process that kills the bacteria and yeasts necessary to produce a healthy bug.


Serving: 1

  • 2 ounces mezcal, preferably Rey Campero
  • 2 ounces mezcal, preferably Rey Campero
  • 1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • homemade celery tonic (see Editor’s Note) or Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda, to top
  • homemade celery tonic (see Editor’s Note) or Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda, to top
  • 3 dashes celery bitters (if using Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda)
  • 3 dashes celery bitters (if using Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda)

Garnish: celery leaf

  1. Combine the first two ingredients in a Collins glass filled with ice.
  2. Top with celery tonic.
  3. Garnish with a celery leaf.
Editor's Note

Homemade Celery Tonic
Yield: approximately 750 milliliters

1/2 pound celery (from approximately 1/3 of a head of celery, base removed)
3/4 cup simple syrup
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon lime juice
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ginger bug (see below)

1. Use a juicer to extract the juice from the celery. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a cheesecloth or tea towel to remove the solids, squeezing as much liquid from the celery pulp as possible. Discard the solids.

2. Add the celery juice, simple syrup, lime juice and ginger bug to a food-safe container, and cover with a tea towel or cheesecloth bound with a rubber band or other non-airtight lid. After 1 day has passed, strain out the solids and decant the soda into a 750-milliliter bottle. Cap tightly and let sit at room temperature, checking every 12 hours to make sure that it hasn’t overcarbonated. (Celery tonic is usually pretty active.) Once sufficiently carbonated, refrigerate the bottle and consume within 3 to 4 weeks.

Ginger Bug
1/2 cup (about 48 grams) grated unpeeled fresh organic ginger (use a Microplane or the smallest hole on a box grater)
1 1/4 cups simple syrup
1 1/4 cups filtered water

Add all of the ingredients to a food-safe container, stir to incorporate, and cover with cheesecloth or a tea towel. Secure the covering with a rubber band or another non-airtight lid so that gases can escape but no insects can enter. Store at room temperature, 65°F to 70°F (18°C to 21°C).

DAYS 2, 3 and 4
an additional 1/4 cup (about 24 grams) grated ginger, each day
an additional 1/2 cup simple syrup, each day

After each daily addition, stir to incorporate the ingredients. By Day 4, you should start to see signs of microbial activity—the mixture should bubble when you stir it and smell mildly alcoholic.

1/4 cup (about 24 grams) grated ginger
1/2 cup simple syrup

Add these on Day 5. Your bug should be active by now and ready to be stored at room temperature, covered with a cheesecloth or tea towel. Continue to add this same amounts of ginger and simple syrup once or twice per week moving forward to keep the bug alive.

If your ginger bug is not showing signs of life after a week, the problem likely lies in either the ginger or the water.

If you are using organic ginger and your ginger bug has still not become active after a week, it could be because the water you are using has a high amount of chlorine, which inhibits microbial growth. Typically, chlorine is removed using any standard water filter, but if you are still experiencing problems, using distilled or bottled water should remedy the issue.