Ottoman Fruit Syrups (Şerbet)

Şerbet made from fresh fruit were an indispensable beverage in Ottoman palace cuisine as well as among the common people and were traditionally served to guests. Despite being on the brink of oblivion today, they still find a place on the table wherever authentic Ottoman cuisine is served. In villages in eastern Turkey, it is still true today that, after a dowry is agreed on, the groom’s family comes to the bride’s house and out comes a long-spouted brass or copper ewer, called an ibrik, filled with gül şerbeti, or rose sherbet. The woman who has “drunk şerbet” has accepted the groom’s suit. Due to the Islamic ban on alcohol, for example, beverages in the Islamic world tended to consist of fruit juices and syrups. Fruit juice is of course consumed all over the world, but the fresh fruit syrups known as ‘şerbet’ appeared and were consumed in quantity among the Muslim communities of the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and Central Asia. English travelers and envoys made the acquaintance of şerbet in the Ottoman period and borrowed the word directly into their own languages, thereby universalizing it. The renowned food historian Alan Davidson reports that ‘şerbet’ entered the Italian language as ‘sorbetto’ during the period of Ottoman-Byzantine-Venetian relations.

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