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Sherbet (powder)

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Sherbet (powder)

Sherbet, kali (Northern English), or keli (Scottish) is a fizzy powder sweet, usually eaten by dipping a lollipop or liquorice, or licking it on a finger.


The word "sherbet" is from Turkish "şerbet", which is from Persian "شربت", which in turn comes from "sharbat", Arabic "sharba" a drink, from "shariba" to drink. Also called "sorbet", which comes from French "sorbet", from Italian "sorbetto" and in turn from Turkish "şerbet". The word is cognate to syrup in English. Historically it was a cool effervescent or iced fruit soft drink. The meaning, spelling and pronunciation have fractured between different countries. It is usually spelled "sherbet", but a common pronunciation changes this to "sherbert".

In Northern England, in particular Lancashire, sherbet and kali are two very different confections. Sherbet is generally recognised to be a powder based substance of the type found with liquorice (sherbet fountain). Kali however, is of a crystal form. Often found packaged in straws and available in a variety of colours and flavours. Both sherbet and kali may be fizzy.


Beginning with the 19th century sherbet powder (soda powder) became popular.[1] "Put a spoonful of the powder in a cup of water, mix it and drink it as soon as possible, during the time of sparkling. ... Because this way the most of acid of air is lost ... it is more practicable to put the powder into the mouth and flush it with some water."[1] 2 g of sodium bicarbonate and 1.5 g of tartaric acid were separately packed in little coloured paper bags.[1]


Sherbet in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries is a fizzy powder, containing sugar and flavouring, and an edible acid and base. The acid may be tartaric, citric or malic acid, and the base may be sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, or a mixture of these and/or other similar carbonates . To this is added a large amount of sugar to mask the unappetising flavour of the reactive powders, and fruit or cream soda flavouring.

The acid-carbonate reaction occurs upon presence of moisture (juice/saliva). Sherbet used to be stirred into various beverages to make effervescing drinks, in a similar way to making lemonade from lemonade powders, before canned carbonated drinks became ubiquitous. Sherbet is now used to mean this powder sold as a sweet. (In the United States, it would be somewhat comparable to the powder in Pixy Stix or Fun Dip, though having the fizzy quality of effervescing candy, such as Pop Rocks.)

Delivery methods

Sherbet has a dual role in the modern sweet world, acting in both solo form and as a decorative agent on other sweets. The most common occurrences are detailed below, but this list is not exhaustive. Dimensions of sherbet include granularity, colour, zing (acidity) and flavouring (normally a citrus fruit).

Sherbet Lemon

The sherbet lemon is a popular sweet in the UK, and is included in many sweet shops. It is the main flavour of boiled sweets with powdered sherbet centres - such a sherbet fruits, where sherbet limes, strawberries, blackcurrants, raspberries and orange are popular flavours. The sherbet lemon has a citrus taste and is sour and also tangy. The sherbet in the middle explodes, making the sweet suddenly more sour.

Sherbet Fountain

Barratt's "Sherbet Fountain" consists of sherbet and a stick made from liquorice, sold since 2009 in a plastic tube with twist-off lid. This replaced the traditional paper packaging with the liquorice stick poking through the end, much to the fury of the traditionalist Daily Mail newspaper.[2][3] In the traditional paper packaging, the top of the stick was intended to be bitten off to form a straw[4] and the sherbet sucked through it, where it fizzes and dissolves on the tongue. The "new" format only includes a solid liquorice stick, so the sherbet must be licked off that, or eaten directly. This method of consumption was also considered acceptable with the original packaging. This is advertised on the packet as "Sherbet with a liquorice dip".[5] This is a completely different experience to the original paper-wrapped sweet.

The manufacturer, Barratt, is a subsidiary of Tangerine Confectionery.

Fruit flavoured with lollipop

Sherbet dips or Sherbet Dabs are also popular, such as the Dip Dab by Barratt. They consist of a small packet of sherbet, with a lollipop sealed into the bag. Once the lollipop has been licked, it can be dipped into the sherbet and then sucked clean, alternatively it can simply be used to shovel the sherbet into the mouth.

Another popular type of sherbet dip is the Double Dip by Swizzels Matlow, where the packet is divided into three sections; one contains an edible stick which can be licked and then dipped into the other sections, each of which contains a different flavour of sherbet (for example strawberry, orange, cola).

Sherbet straws

Plastic straws filled purely with fruit-flavoured sherbet. The most common lengths are 10 cm and 50 cm. The price of these straws range from 5p to £2.00 in the UK depending on size, make and flavour. Normally found in newsagents.

Flying saucers

Main article: Flying saucer (confectionery)

Small dimpled discs made from edible coloured paper (rice paper),[6] typically filled with white unflavoured sherbet (the same form as in Sherbet Fountains). The first flying saucers were produced in the 1960s.

Decorator functions

Sherbet is incorporated into other sweets. For example it is used to give gum based sweets an interesting surface texture and zing (notably cola bottles, fruit strips).


Sherbet has been used in parts of both the UK and Australia as slang for an alcoholic drink, especially beer. This use is noted in a slang dictionary as early as 1890, and still appears in list of slang terms written today (especially lists of Australian slang). "We're heading to the pub for a few sherbets." - … pints of beer."

In the UK "Showbiz Sherbet" sometimes refers to cocaine, which is also consumed as a powder.

"Sherbet dab" is used as rhyming slang for a "taxi cab".

See also


External links

  • Henry Mayhew, 1851; subsequent pages cover the costs and income of street sherbet sellers.
  • Tangerine Confectionery homepage
  • Instructions to make sherbet

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