“Sorbet” derives from the Arabic word “sherbeth” which refers to a fragrant mashed fruit drink. However, the sorbet as we know it has an even ancient history: some think that Nero, the Roman Emperor, invented it during his reign. He had runners bring buckets full of snow and ice from the Appennini Mountains.
In the Middle Ages, while Europe and Italy were divided by the Pope and the Emperor, by the land and the faith, the Arabs introduced cold drink traditions in Sicily: snow from the Mount Etna and lemons became the perfect match during the hot Sicilian summers.
Thanks to them, the sorbet becomes in the Renaissance one of the most appreciated cold dessert throughout Italy and, especially, Florence: the first recipe appears in 1570 in Bartolomeo Scappi’s “Opera”.
During the following centuries, the sorbet makes its way to France and, after that, to the rest of Europe and the Western world: in the XVIII century, finally, Filippo Baldini writes the “De Sorbetti” in which he creates the base for the modern Ice Cream, an Italian specialty born between Naples, Tuscany and Sicily and whose history goes back to the ancient cultures.
Eating a lemon sorbet today is like making a journey back in history, back to our roots.
• 200 g sugar
• 3 unwaxed juicy lemons
• 500 ml water
• 50 ml grappa or vodka
Prepare a syrup in a saucepan with the water, sugar and the zest of one of the lemons. Let it cool and discard the zest. Add the grappa and juice of the 3 lemons. Put in an icecream machine until the mixture reaches the right consistency (about 15-20 minutes). Put in the freezer for 10 minutes and serve.