This Campari sorbet recipe is sweet and tart and sophisticated and stunning and almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Think of this Campari sorbet as a sophisticated and refreshing riff on a cocktail. It’s sweet and tart and a little bitter and almost more digestif than dessert thanks to the herbal undertones of the vibrant magenta booze known as Campari that’s an Italian classic. We find this sorbet almost too pretty to eat. Almost.–Angie Zoobkoff
- Ice cream maker
- One (4 1/2-oz) thin-skinned lemon preferably organic
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups superfine sugar (or just blitz granulated sugar in a blender until finely ground but not powdery)
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Campari
- Juice from 5 clementines (about 1/2 cup)
- 4 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
- Roughly chop the lemon, including the skin. Discard the seeds. Toss the chopped lemon in a food processor along with the sugar and purée until the lemon is smooth punctuated by little bits of lemon zest.
- Add the Campari and clementine juice and pulse to combine. If desired, strain the mixture, using the back of a spoon to press on the solids to release as much liquid as possible.
- If using an ice cream maker, transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the pomegranate juice, and stir well to combine. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours. Pour the refrigerated sorbet mixture into your ice cream machine, working in a couple batches if necessary, and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you like a softer sorbet, serve the Campari sorbet straightaway from the ice cream machine; if you like a firmer sorbet, transfer it to a resealable container and freeze for at least 6 hours. If not using an ice cream maker, add the pomegranate juice and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a couple metal baking pans and freeze, stirring and scraping the mixture with a fork every 30 minutes, until flaky and frozen, 3 to 6 hours total, depending on the size of your pan. The texture will be coarser than a typical sorbet and more like that of a granita. Serve the Campari sorbet straightaway or transfer it to a resealable container and freeze for up to several days.
- Scoop and serve. (You probably could've figured this step out on your own…)
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This Campari sorbet is the epitome of an adult sorbet. Besides being boozy, it relies on the bitterness of the Campari to offset the sweetness enough to make this sorbet rather un-dessertlike, vibrant pink coloring notwithstanding. Think of it as a digestif, rather than a dessert, and you’ll be happy.
This recipe makes a large batch—more than mine could handle in one go. Check the capacity of your ice cream maker. If you have the typical 1.5-quart Cuisinart, you’ll need to freeze this in 2 batches, so allow time for that or halve the recipe. My first batch was very soft when it came out of the ice cream maker, so I put it in the freezer for 6 hours before serving. I’m happy to report that the sorbet was still easily scoopable. We can thank the booze for that!
I’d recommend making this sorbet at least a half a day ahead of whenever you plan to serve it. Being a make-ahead candidate is a big plus in my mind. I used a Meyer lemon.
After tasting liqueur in a sorbet for the first time with this Campari sorbet, my mind sparked with visions of alcoholic popsicles and ice cubes. I don’t think I can go back to just normal sorbet! This is perfect to have in the freezer during December to complement heavy dinners or to satiate a sweet tooth.
I do think this recipe calls for an overwhelming amount of sugar, but without it the sorbet would be less well-rounded and would have a sharp, bitter taste. I used 1 3/4 cups sugar.
This recipe would be so quick and easy with an automatic ice cream machine but if you wanted to make the process more fun, use a manual ice cream machine like I did. I have a ball in which you fill with ice, salt, and sorbet liquid. You then roll the ball around on the floor for 30 minutes, stopping halfway between to scrape the frozen liquid off the sides. Bonus points if you have a friend or significant other to sit on the floor with you and roll the ball back and forth, getting in touch with your childhood spirit just in time for Christmas. I’m not sure what my roommate thought I was doing for a half hour as the sloshing of ice on my hardwood floor was comically loud.
If you want the sorbet to be less boozy, I would halve the amount of Campari but I thought it was the perfect herb-filled complement to the sweetness. The sorbet was easily scoopable and the perfect texture to eat straightaway from the ice cream maker. I also froze the rest to eat throughout the next week or so. The sorbet is a stunning color, due to the Campari and pomegranate juice, and would be an impressive dessert at a holiday party. I would like to play around with the same recipe and try to make popsicles.
A really nice, bright note for a fall dinner or between courses, this Campari sorbet comes together pretty quickly, though I actually found doing some of it ahead of time made for a better result. The flavor is definitely adult and fresh and you can probably make this year-round. I used a large Meyer lemon as it had beautiful, flawless skin, was organic, and I like the flavor. The only ingredient adjustment I suggest is that if you use a Meyer lemon, cut back on the sugar a bit, which I would do when making this again (maybe decrease the sugar by 10 to 15%).
Normally I thoroughly pre-chill any ice cream or sorbet overnight, but this recipe is written to make and serve immediately. My simple home ice cream freezer has about a 1.5 qt. capacity, so I had a bit more than I could freeze in one go.
The batch that was made and stored for a day and a half in the freezer was nicely scoopable (no need to sit out before scooping as it’s not frozen hard) and it also had a beautiful sparkly look that was close to the picture. What I do when I want to pass sorbet as a palate cleanser course is to pre-scoop it into small [shot] glasses and keep them frozen until time to serve, so you aren’t fretting with many servings melting while you’re still scooping. Delicious and stress-free results.
We loved this Campari sorbet and will absolutely make it again. I love Campari. To me, it’s Italy in a bottle. So, needless to say, when I spied this Campari sorbet recipe, I knew I was going to make it. I like Campari on ice. I like it with sparkling water. But my favorite way to drink Campari is with Pellegrino Grapefruit soda. Sitting by Lago di Como at sunset with a Campari and pompelmo concoction and the accompanying nibbles that only Italians manage to serve with their aperitivos with such elegance is how I want to die. (My discussion of Italian “happy hours” is for another time.) But I also really like it in this sorbet. And it really couldn’t be easier to make.
The ingredients are easily found so there’s absolutely no excuse not to make this dessert. Once frozen, it’s beautiful and seems to look even more beautiful in the dish. We’re only 2 people so I halved the recipe. It worked perfectly.
The only adjustment I made was to substitute tangerines for the clementines because we can’t go through an entire box of clementines before they begin to spoil. We weren’t able to blend the lemon rind until smooth. We processed it a number of times but it just didn’t want to break down any further so we left the little bits. We liked it but if you prefer a very smooth sorbet, you’ll want to strain the liquid before freezing.
Next time I would probably increase each liquid a bit and decrease the sugar by maybe half. Campari is basically a syrup so it’s already sweet. We used the full amount of sugar and found the finished product a bit overly sweet for our taste but still we managed to eat it!
We don’t have an ice cream machine in our current location, so we froze the sorbet liquid in metal containers in the freezer and checked it every hour, stirring until it was frozen enough. In our freezer, that took about 6 hours.
Uh, and, when the recipe says to transfer the sugar and lemon mixture to a bowl, do it. I had a mini Campari flood starting to ooze out of the food processor and this liquid is sticky! Such a rookie mistake, I know.
Originally published February 11, 2017