Before the invention of modern beverages, sherbets, in hundreds of variations, were consumed as refreshers especially in Eastern civilizations with hot climates.
During the Ottoman period, the helvacıbaşı would make the sherbets at Topkapı Palace. The word “sherbet” derives from the Arabic word “shariba” meaning “to drink.”
Evliya Çelebi writes people drank pomegranate, apricot, rhubarb sherbets, and poppy sherbets in Bitlis. French botanist Pierre Belon stated that, between 1546 and 1551, Ottomans prepared sherbet with fig, plum, pear, peach, apricot, grape, or honey, and chilled sherbet with ice or snow in summer. British traveler Moryson said Turks cultivated many fruits in addition to grapes, apricot, melon, and pumpkin which they ate all winter, and that the cold sherbets they made with some of these fruits on hot days were healing rather than unhealthy. In 1577, Duke of Florence Francesco Medici wrote a letter to Venetian Mafeo Veniero asking the recipe for sherbet and other sweet medicines and beverages that the Turks made. This tells us that the habit of drinking sherbet in Europe started in Venice.
Called sorbetto in Italian, sherbet transformed into ice cream over the course of history. In the 17th century, Italians froze sherbet, naming it, as mentioned before, sorbetto. In French and English, people still call fruit ice cream "sorbet."
After Italy, sherbet spread to France and Great Britain. As it became more popular, Turkey began to export ready sherbet sugar to the U.K. In 1662, the Great Turk Coffee sold sherbet with lemon, rose, and violet, all made in Turkey. The export of sherbet sugar continued in the 18th century.
20 violet flowers / 3 cups granulated sugar
Wash the violets and remove the flowers' white parts. Knead the sugar and violet petals in a large bowl, and then crush them in a mortar. Place the sugar and violets in a bowl, cover, and let rest for one or two hours. Add water to the sweet mixture and sieve before serving.
Red Currant Sherbet
1 kg red currants / 1 kg granulated sugar
Wash the red currants and discard the stalks. Crush the red currants and sieve the juice. Mix the juice and the sugar and let it sit for a day. Add water to the sherbet concentrate before serving.