Strawberry sorbet
Place of originIran
Inventedc. 550–530 BCE
Serving temperatureFrozen
Main ingredientsWater, sugar, fruit

Sorbet (/ˈsɔːrb, ˈsɔːrbət/, US also /sɔːrˈb/)[1] is a frozen dessert made using ice combined with fruit juice, fruit purée, or other ingredients, such as wine, liqueur, or honey. Generally, sorbets do not contain dairy products.


The word sorbet entered English from French, derived from Italian sorbetto, which in turn came from the Ottoman Turkish or Iranian sharbat, originally referring to a type of beverage.[2] The word sharbat is derived from the Arabic verb shariba, which means "to drink".[3]

Sherbet in Europe still refers to a type of flavored drink, while North American sherbet is similar to sorbet. August Escoffier describes sorbet as "very light and barely-congealed ices, served after the Entrées. They serve in freshening the stomach; preparing it to properly receive the roast. They are appetizers and help to aid digestion".[4] Sorbet is sometimes referred to as "water ice".[3][page needed]


It is believed that sorbets originated in ancient Persia as far back as 550–530 BC.[5][6][7][8] There are a number of legendary origin myths, unsupported by any known evidence, that attribute the origins of sorbet to historical figures like the Roman Emperor Nero, Marco Polo, and the Italian duchess Catherine de' Medici.[9][10][11]

Romans did not add ice to their drinks because easily accessible ice along the lower slopes of mountains was not sanitary for use in food preparation.[8] Iced drinks were believed to cause convulsions, colic and a host of other ailments.[9] Hippocrates was known to have criticized chilled drinks for causing "fluxes of the stomach", while Seneca lambasted the extravagant costs associated with iced desserts.[10] Despite this, ice and snow were prized ingredients in ancient cuisines including Japanese, Chinese, Greek and Roman cuisines.[9]

The first Western mention of sherbet is an Italian reference to something that Turks drink.[12] The word sherbet entered the Italian language as sorbetto, which later became sorbet in French.[12] August Escoffier describes sorbet as "very light and barely-congealed ices, served after the Entrées. They serve in freshening the stomach; preparing it to properly receive the roast. They are appetizers and help to aid digestion".[4] He recommends that they register 15° on the saccharometer and be of drinkable consistency.[4]

The first recipe in French for flavored ices appears in 1674, in Nicholas Lemery's Recueil de curiositéz rares et nouvelles de plus admirables effets de la nature.[13] Recipes for sorbetti saw publication in the 1694 edition of Antonio Latini's Lo Scalco alla Moderna (The Modern Steward).[13] Recipes for flavored ices begin to appear in François Massialot's Nouvelle Instruction pour les Confitures, les Liqueurs, et les Fruits, starting with the 1692 edition. Massialot's recipes result in a coarse, pebbly texture. Latini claims that the results of his recipes should have the fine consistency of sugar and snow.[13] When Europeans figured out how to freeze sherbet they began making sorbetto by adding fruit juices and flavorings to a frozen simple syrup base. In the US, sherbet generally meant an ice milk, but recipes from early soda fountain manuals included ingredients such as gelatin, beaten egg whites, cream, or milk.[8]


Like granitas and other ices, sorbet can be made without an ice cream maker. Alcohol, honey or corn syrup can be added to lower the freezing point and make softer sorbets.[14]

Sorbet is usually made with fresh fruit and simple syrup, but other types of preparations exist. Tart sorbets are served as palate cleansers between savory courses of a meal.[11] Mulled wine sorbet can be made with red wine, orange, lemons, mulling spices, ruby port, and egg whites. Muscat sorbet is made with dessert wine, lemon juice, and egg whites.[15]

Givré (French for "frosted") is the term for a sorbet served in a frozen coconut shell or hollowed-out fruit, such as a lemon.[16] Agraz is a type of sorbet with an acidic flavor attributed by Larousse Gastronomique to the Maghreb region of North Africa. It is made from almonds, verjuice, and sugar.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Wells, John C. (2008). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.). Longman. ISBN 978-1-4058-8118-0.
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  3. ^ a b Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food.
  4. ^ a b c August Escoffier, The Escoffier Cook Book, 1976, ISBN 0517506629, translation of Le Guide Culinaire, 1903, p. 853
  5. ^ Book of Firsts. RW Press. ISBN 978-1-909284-29-6. c. 550-530 BC, First mention of flavoured snow or ice: during the Persian Empire
  6. ^ Marks, Gil (2010-11-17). Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. HMH. ISBN 978-0-544-18631-6. A yakhchal (ice storage) was an ancient Persian freezer. By at least 400 BC, Persians had developed techniques for storing ice, which was gathered during the winter or carried from the tops of mountains, in large insulated underground chambers topped by domed structures. This innovation allowed ice to be available throughout the summer, even in the desert. A favorite use of this stored ice was in one of the earliest frozen desserts; the forerunner of all ice creams and sorbets, this ancient Persian mixture included ice, honey, and various flavors, notably saffron and fruits.
  7. ^ Nutt, Frederick (25 July 2022). The Complete Confectioner or The Whole Art of Confectionary Made Easy: Also Receipts for Home-made Wines, Cordials, French and Italian Liqueurs &c. S. Leigh and Baldwin Cradock, and Joy (published 1819).
  8. ^ a b c Weir, Robin; Quinzio, Jeri (2015-07-23). "Sherbet". The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-931339-6. Retrieved 2018-07-20 – via Oxford Reference.
  9. ^ a b c Goldstein, Darra, ed. (2015). The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets.
  10. ^ a b Toussaint-Samat, Maguelonne (2009). A History of Food. Wiley. p. 675.
  11. ^ a b Weir, Caroline; Weir, Robin (2010). Ice Creams, Sorbets & Gelati:The Definitive Guide. Grub Street Cookery. p. 9. ISBN 978-1909808935.
  12. ^ a b Cousineau, Phil (2012-09-11). The Painted Word: A Treasure Chest of Remarkable Words and Their Origins. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781936740253. By the time it left the deserts of Persia for the cities of Europe it had been transformed into an "Orientalized" dessert called sorbetto in Italian and sorbet in French.
  13. ^ a b c Powell, Marilyn (2005). Cool: The Story of Ice Cream. Toronto: Penguin Canada. ISBN 978-0-14-305258-6. OCLC 59136553.
  14. ^ Pappas, Lou Seibert (April 1997). Sorbets and Ice Creams: And Other Frozen Confections. Chronicle Books. pp. 11–15. ISBN 978-0-8118-1573-4.
  15. ^ Liddell, Caroline; Weir, Robin (1996-07-15). Frozen Desserts: The Definitive Guide to Making Ice Creams, Ices, Sorbets, Gelati, and Other Frozen Delights. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-312-14343-5.
  16. ^ "What does givré mean?". Retrieved 2022-03-11.
  17. ^ Hamlyn (2 August 2018). The New Larousse Gastronomique. Octopus Books. ISBN 9780600635871.