A History of Water Ice
Italian Water Ice, or more accurately sorbet to, is also referred to at different times as Water Ice, Sorbet and Sherbet. However, whatever you might call it, it is a frozen dessert made from sweetened water flavored with fruit (typically juice or puree), wine, liqueur and/or other flavors.
The origin of water ices is variously explained as either a Roman invention, or a Middle Eastern drink called “charbet”, made of sweetened juice and water. The name comes from the Latin verb “sorbere” and the modern Italian verb “sorbire, which in both cases means to eat and drink at the same time. This is appropriate since the noun form “sorbet to” is a mixture of solid and liquid food. The term “sherbet” or “charbet” is derived from the Turkish “serbet, and “sorbet” from the Persian “sharbat” which in turns comes from the Arabic meaning “drink(s)” or “juice.”
Unlike ice cream which is based on dairy products with air copiously whipped in, sorbet to has neither. This makes for a dense and extremely flavorful product. Therefore, Panda Water Ice Company’s sorbetto is served as a non-fat, or low-fat alternative to ice cream.
Early History and folklore
Historical folklore holds that the Roman emperor Nero invented sorbetto in 62 AD when he had slaves and runners line up along the Appian Way and pass buckets of snow and glacier ice hand over hand from the mountains to his banquet hall. Here the snow and ice were then mixed with honey and wine, as well as fruits, to make the rare and tasty frozen treat he named sorbetto.
One account says that Marco Polo brought the recipe for a sorbetto-like dessert on his way back to Italy from China in the late 13th Century, as written in the account of his journey, “The Travels of Marco Polo.”
Frozen desserts are believed to have been brought to France in 1533 by Catherine de’Medici when she left Italy to marry the Duke of Orleans, who later became Henry II of France. By the end of the 17th Century, sorbetto was being served in the streets of Paris, and soon spread to England and the rest of Europe.
The Distinction from Sherbet and Ice Cream
In the United States, sorbet and sherbert are different products. To Americans, sherbert is the more widely known term and typically designates a fruity flavored frozen dairy product with a butterfat content between 1% and 2%. Sorbet (the term first derived and used in Brooklyn, NY), on the other hand, is a fruity frozen product with no dairy and is similar to Italian Water Ice or sorbetto.
Sherbet in the United States, by law, must include dairy ingredients such as milk or cream to reach the milkfat content between 1% and 2%. Products with higher milkfat content of 10% to 18% are defined as ice cream, while those between 2% and 10% milkfat are termed “frozen dairy dessert.” Products with less than 1% milkfat content and not using any milk or cream ingredients, and no egg ingredients other than the egg white, are defined by the USDA as water ice or sorbetto.