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Why do you put celery in cocktails?

Introduction

Celery is a common ingredient found in many classic cocktails, from the Bloody Mary to the Celery Gimlet. While you may be used to seeing a celery stick garnishing your drink, you may wonder why it’s there in the first place. As it turns out, there are some practical and historical reasons why bartenders add celery to cocktails.

In this article, we’ll explore the origins of celery in cocktails, its practical uses, and some of the popular celery cocktails you can try. Whether you’re a fan of herbaceous flavors or just curious about cocktail history, read on to learn more about the surprisingly versatile veggie.

A Brief History of Celery in Cocktails

Celery has been used for centuries as a food, medicine, and aromatic. The ancient Greeks used it in wreaths and garlands. Both Greeks and Romans used celery seed as a spice. Celery was brought to the United States in the 19th century and took off in popularity.

It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that celery became a popular cocktail ingredient and garnish in the United States. Some credit Bern’s Steak House in Tampa, Florida with first pairing celery sticks with Bloody Marys. Others say celery salt flavored rims started the trend.

During this mid-century cocktail renaissance, bartenders realized celery could do more than just garnish drinks. Its herbal flavors and texture complemented several cocktails. Over the decades, celery became a standard ingredient in Bloody Marys, martinis, and other drinks.

Why Put Celery in Cocktails?

There are a few reasons celery ended up alongside olives and limes as a favorite cocktail ingredient. Here are some of the primary benefits of adding celery:

Flavor

Celery has a distinctive, herbaceous taste that adds a fresh, green flavor to cocktails. Much like mint accents drinks with its cooling notes, celery provides an invigorating, grassy flavor. It pairs well with tomatoes, hot sauce, citrus, and herbs.

Bartenders will often use celery salt, celery bitters, celery juice, or muddled celery sticks to impart flavor. The vegetal notes complement savory cocktails like Bloody Marys but can also balance sweet drinks.

Aroma

In addition to its flavor, celery also provides a pleasant aroma. The essential oils in celery contain phthalides, organic compounds that give it its characteristic scent.

Muddling celery releases these aromatics, which rise to the nose as you sip a drink. Celery garnishes continue emitting their crisp, clean fragrance as you enjoy your cocktail.

Texture

Celery adds more than just flavor and aroma – it provides a juicy crunch that balances mixed drinks. The fibrous vegetable contains a high water content, making it incredibly refreshing to bite into.

Muddled celery or sliced stalks give cocktails another layer of texture alongside the alcohol, juices, syrups, and ice. This makes drinks more complex and interesting.

Nutrition

While cocktails pack more calories from alcohol than nutrition, celery does contain some vitamins and minerals. Celery is high in vitamin K, providing 18% of the recommended daily value in just one stalk. It also contains folate, potassium, and over a dozen antioxidants.

So while a Bloody Mary or celery gimlet won’t count as a full serving of vegetables, adding celery does incorporate some nutrients into the drink. Celery makes cocktails relatively healthier than drinks without it.

Hydration

That high water content serves another purpose in cocktails – hydration. Celery is 95% water, helping counterbalance the dehydrating effects of alcohol consumption.

The water dilutes drinks’ strength while the nutrients can help ease hangovers. For this reason, partygoers will often finish a night of drinking with a celery juice or hangover cocktail containing celery juice.

Garnish Appeal

Lastly, celery simply looks great in drinks! The vibrant green color pops against cocktail glasses and adds height to short drinks like shooters. Bartenders will often embellish celery sticks with olives, cheeses, or pepper for more appeal.

So while not all celery garnishes are meant to be eaten, they do improve the overall presentation. Celery attracts the eyes as well as the taste buds.

Popular Celery Cocktails

Now that you know why celery became a cocktail staple, here are some popular drinks that feature this versatile veggie:

Bloody Mary

The Bloody Mary is likely the most famous celery cocktail. While recipes vary, the basic formula includes vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, celery salt, black pepper, lemon juice, and garnished with a celery stalk. The celery complements the spicy, savory flavors.

Celery Gimlet

This take on a classic gimlet combines gin or vodka with freshly juiced celery instead of the usual lime. Sweetener and celery bitters round out the flavors for a herbaceous, aromatic cocktail.

Celery Sour

For a whiskey twist, the celery sour blends bourbon, celery shrub, lemon juice, and simple syrup with a celery garnish. The celery shrub provides concentrated flavor without the texture.

Green Bloody Maria

For a lower-alcohol option, the Green Bloody Maria mixes celery juice with tomatillo salsa, cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice, hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Tequila is optional depending on your preference.

Ceaser

The Ceaser is Canada’s twist on the Bloody Mary, replacing tomato juice with clamato juice. Vodka, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, celery salt, and pepper are topped off with a celery stalk, making it a true celery cocktail.

Antoni’s Aperol Spritz

Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski shared his own Aperol spritz recipe that includes muddled celery for extra flavor. Aperol, prosecco, soda water, and orange slices make a bright, bubbly celery cocktail.

Celery Collins

The Celery Collins riffs on the classic Tom Collins by using celery juice instead of lemon juice as the citrus component. Gin, simple syrup, club soda, and a celery stalk for garnish create a refreshing summer drink.

How to Choose and Prepare Celery for Cocktails

Want to start incorporating celery into your own cocktails? Here are some tips for selecting and preparing celery:

– Look for crisp, bright green stalks without brown spots or blemishes. The leaves should be perky, not wilted.

– Trim off any dried or discolored ends and discard before preparing the rest. Rinse under water and pat dry.

– To muddle, cut stalks into 2-3 inch pieces and mash in a cocktail shaker or glass to release flavor and texture.

– For juice, run stalks and leaves through a juicer. Use cheesecloth to strain out fibrous pulp.

– Slice thin stalks lengthwise into long strips for pretty garnishes. Cut thicker stalks into sticks or spears.

– Don’t discard the leaves – larger ones can be used as aromatic garnish and smaller ones can flavor infused syrups.

– Store cut celery wrapped in damp paper towels in the refrigerator for a couple days. The sooner it’s used, the fresher it will taste.

– Celery salt and celery bitters let you add concentrated celery flavor without the texture or moisture.

Celery Cocktail Recipes to Try

Here are a few more recipes to incorporate celery into both classic and unique cocktails:

Strawberry Celery Smash

Muddle 5 strawberries with 2 celery stalks
Add 2 oz bourbon
Add 1 oz lemon juice
Add .5 oz simple syrup
Shake with ice and strain over ice
Garnish with celery leaf

Celery Green Dragon

Muddle 5 basil leaves with 2 celery stalks
Add 1.5 oz gin
Add .5 oz green chartreuse
Shake with ice and strain over ice
Garnish with celery stalk wrapped in basil

Pear & Celery Margarita

Rim glass with celery salt
Muddle 1 celery stalk with 1 pear wedge
Add 2 oz tequila, 1 oz lime juice, .5 oz agave nectar
Shake and strain over ice
Garnish with lime wheel and celery leaf

Spicy Celery Bloody Maria

Rim glass with celery salt and chili powder
Add 1.5 oz tequila, 3 oz celery juice
Top with 1 tbsp horseradish, 2 dashes hot sauce
Garnish with celery stalk and pickled jalapeño

Cardamom Celery Gin & Tonic

Lightly muddle 4 cardamom pods with 1 celery stalk
Add 2 oz gin and 4 oz tonic water
Squeeze 1 lime wedge and drop in drink
Fill glass with ice and garnish with celery stalk

Infusing Celery Flavor into Cocktails

If you want to add celery flavor without the textures or fibers, try making infused syrups, salts, or bitters at home:

Celery Syrup

Simmer 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup chopped celery 15 minutes. Fine strain, let cool, and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

Celery Bitters

Steep 1/2 oz chopped celery leaves in 4 oz vodka for 4 days, strain out solids, and add 5 dashes Angostura bitters.

Celery Shrub

Combine equal parts chopped celery and apple cider vinegar. Let sit 1 week, strain, and add sugar to taste.

CelerySalt

Process 1 part salt with 2 parts dried celery flakes until fine texture is reached. Store in airtight container.

Celery Cocktail Ideas

If you need more inspiration for clever ways to use celery in drinks, try these cocktail ideas:

– Muddle celery with ginger and top with whiskey for a maple autumn cocktail.

– Make a celery sour by shaking celery juice with aquavit, lemon, and simple syrup.

– Celery mojitos are crisp and refreshing – muddle leaves with rum, lime, mint, and sugar.

– Use celery bitters and salt to rim a margarita glass for a south of the border twist.

– For a non-alcoholic morning drink, juice celery with green apple, spinach, and ginger.

– Create a layered shooter by carefully pouring vodka, celery juice, and blue curaçao.

– Infuse vodka with celery leaves and seeds for an extra flavorful bloody mary.

Conclusion

While celery may seem like just a garnish, it actually adds complex flavor, aroma, texture, nutrition, and appeal to many cocktails. It has a long history of use in drinks going back to the mid-1900s Bloody Mary craze.

Celery’s herbal, earthy notes pair well with everything from juice to gin to spice. Muddle it, juice it, infuse it, or garnish with it. So next time you see celery accompanying a drink, take a sip and appreciate the subtle yet impactful qualities it brings.