Most bars and trattorias will have a large plastic machine constantly churning a slushy white lemon sorbetto mix to be sold in little champagne flutes with a straw at the end of a meal. It has a fizziness and freshness (like a sherbet), I wanted to replicate in my own kitchen. It is the most refreshing thing in the world, and I am convinced that the slight saltiness of a natural sparkling water enhances the zing. Serve in the hollowed-out lemon shells for added effect.–Letitia Clark


We hear you. It’s the middle of the summer and your garden is flush with produce. And you’re wondering what to do with it all. Well, it’s possible to make a few adjustements to this gorgeous little recipe to change it up a touch. While you’re simmering the syrup, you can add a handful of fresh herbs like basil, mint, lemon verbena, or lemongrass. Once you’re done simmering though, remove them as they can get bitter after a time. As well, it’s just as easy to make this recipe with any other citrus fruit you have on hand—grapefruit would be especially good.

A frosty, hollowed out lemon wih leaf, filled with pale lemon sorbet on a glass plate.

Sparkling Lemon Sorbet

5 / 5 votes
Lemon sorbetto, or simply sorbetto as it is known here in Sardinia, is an example of one of the purest and simplest sorbets (originally made from just three ingredients: water, sugar, and lemon) that has become mass-produced.
David Leite
Servings6 servings
Calories193 kcal
Prep Time45 minutes
Chill Time2 hours
Total Time3 hours 15 minutes


  • Ice cream maker


  • 6 whole lemons
  • Zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • Scant 1/2 cup water
  • Scant 1 cup carbonated water (use a salty brand like San Pellegrino)


  • If you wish to serve this inside the lemons, cut off 1⁄2 inch (1 cm) from the bottom of the fruits to create a flat surface for them to stand upright. Cut the top off (about 1 inch [2 cm] here to create a good hat) and reserve it as a lid. Scoop out all of the flesh as if preparing a Halloween pumpkin and press the flesh through a sieve to obtain the juice for your sorbetto. You'll need 1 cup of lemon juice for the recipe. Freeze the lemon shells before using them to serve the sorbet; they look much more effective slightly frosty and will keep the sorbetto colder longer.
    If not serving in the lemons, juice enough lemons to get 1 cup fresh lemon juice.
  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the lemon zest, sugar, and still water and bring to a boil. Simmer until syrupy, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the syrup into a bowl and discard the zest. Stir in the lemon juice and the carbonated water.
  • Chill the mixture until cold, at least 2 hours.
  • Dump into an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions until thick and slushy, about 30 minutes.
  • Serve immediately, in the hollowed-out lemons, if desired.

Adapted From

La Vita e Dolce

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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 193 kcalCarbohydrates: 52 gProtein: 1 gFat: 1 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gSodium: 12 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 44 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Letitia Clark. Photo © 2021 Charlotte Bland. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This recipe for sparkling lemon sorbet took me back to my childhood where on hot summer days on Revere Beach my mother would give me a nickel to go to the corner store and get a lemon slush. That was pure heaven for a child. And I’ve found that things haven’t changed that much. The name is a little fancier and the presentation is a little fancier–hollowed out lemon vs. paper cone that caused the slush to drip all over you by the time you were halfway back to the beach, but the taste is wonderful, and a bit more sophisticated than that childhood treat.

This lemony treat is a crisp tasting, thirst-quenching bit of paradise served with a simple butter cookie. My freezer will be stocked with this easy-to-make treat all summer long.

This is a punchy lemon sorbet that gets some extra zing from the sparkling water. We made and served this in the middle of a heatwave, the perfect dessert for those hot nights. We did hollow out lemons to serve the sorbet which worked perfectly. I added some mint leaves for a garnish and to make ahead, I suggest freezing overnight and letting the sparkling lemon sorbet sit at room temp before scooping.

What a nice refreshing frozen treat perfect for summer! Simple ingredients come together for a sweet and tart delicious sparkling lemon sorbet. The idea of serving in a champagne flute with a little straw is great as it melts fairly quickly. But if in a bowl, scooping up the melted bit along with some still frozen sorbet is ok too! I’d make this again as a light dessert after a meal or it would be great as a palate cleanser between courses.

A lovely, refreshing treat for a hot summer day. The sparkling lemon sorbet was very tart and I like it this way but not everyone did. I think more sparkling water could be added, at least another cup, to mellow the flavor. It was simple to put together, the hardest part is waiting. The little bit of saltiness in the sparking water complemented the lemons just right. After 20 minutes in the ice cream maker the sorbet was slushy frozen (like soft serve). Next time I’ll be filling the lemons, I thought this was a great idea to make ahead for a party.

Sparkling lemon sorbet is tart, sweet and very refreshing. I let the syrup sit for about an hour before I added the sparkling water, then churned it in my ice cream maker. It was soft and slushy after 25 minutes and firmed up in the freezer after 4 hours (still easy to scoop though). We enjoyed small scoops of it for dessert.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    What a wonderful recipe – the soda water is a great touch. Light, fluffy, and so refreshing. Perfect!

  2. 5 stars
    Sparkly Lemon Sorbet is my new favorite summer dessert. So light, so tart, so refreshing. The recipe works perfectly in my small ice cream maker, yet it made many more servings than I expected. I have to admit that l left the lemon zest in, and I loved the texture it added.