The Story of Sorbet

Nero not impressed because he eat all the sorbet...

As always there are lots of different ideas about the origins of food. However the one I like the most about the invention of sorbet, is the story of the Roman Emperor Nero.

During the first century A.D, the Emperor positioned his men along the Appi pass, which ran all the way from Rome, 293 miles south to Brindisi. Nero ordered his men to pass buckets of snow between each other, from the cold mountains to his Brindisi banquet hall. When the snow arrived it was mixed with honey and wine to become a sorbet or in Italian a “sorbire,” for his guests.

Interestingly the word “sorbire” is an Italian verb used to describe the action “to imbibe”, known in the English language as saturation or absorption.

Following its invention, the method of producing sorbet depended on nature and human access to ice. Ice was gathered from ponds and lakes in the winter, and stored in ice wells and ice houses. By packing ice into an insulated underground chamber, and with sufficient drainage, ice was able to be stored for months and sometimes even years.

Ice remained a luxury for many years, and this can be seen in how we serve sorbet today. At elegant dinners, sorbet can be served between courses to cleanse the palate for the following course, and in restaurants, champagne or cocktails can be served with a ball of sorbet in the glass to enhance the flavour.

Laura Lewis is the founder and director of Lushice Sorbets - visit the website and tell us which is your favourite flavour.