What’s refreshing, smooth, and packed with zingy, juicy, sensation-awakening flavors? The answer is sorbet, a combination of fruit and sugar, churned to scoop-able perfection. Unlike ice cream, lightly creamy sherbet, and their rich Italian cousin, gelato, sorbet is dairy-free by definition. It’s naturally plant-powered ingredient list is similar to Italian ice or granita, which is made from frozen fruit, sugar, and water that’s scraped into icy flakes. But sorbet’s smooth texture sets it apart.
In France, sorbet is traditionally served to cleanse the palate between courses of a heavy meal, and its cooling freshness also works as the perfect antidote for hot, thick, and sticky summer days. Here in Brooklyn, we’ve got frozen dessert makers from across the globe, each packing their native flavors into their pints—and if you always stick with ice cream or gelato, you’re missing out on some of the finest sorbet you can get anywhere.
In our (highly subjective) search for the best sorbet in Brooklyn, we wanted to make sure that we focused on flavors that were both sophisticated and fun, so we gathered seven pints from five local shops, and assembled a team of four kids (plus their parents) to rank them.
Here’s the scoop.
Best sorbet in Brooklyn: King of Mangoes from Ample Hills
Local sorbet enthusiast, Mohan Dameron, 10, is neither vegan nor lactose intolerant, but he’s a kid who takes texture very seriously, doesn’t enjoy chocolate, and doesn’t appreciate chunks in his frozen desserts. “I’ve been into sorbet for about three years,” he said. “It started at the Chocolate Room when passion fruit sorbet was the only non-chocolate flavor they had. At the end of second grade, I tried my mom’s mango sorbet, and I never went back.”
Given his flavor predilections, it’s little wonder that The King of Mangoes from Ample Hills was his favorite. It also happens to be the gold standard for Brooklyn sorbet. While I was picking up pints for this story, a stylish young man in line beside me ordered a giant cone of mango sorbet, which seemed extreme at the time, but I get it now. I love an assertive sorbet, but King of Mangoes is more of a comfort food. Any ice cream lover could crush a pint of this stuff, and it’s great to have on hand in any vegan-friendly freezer.
I love an assertive sorbet, but King of Mangoes is more of a comfort food.
Though it’s completely dairy-free, it gets a luscious, almost creamy texture from Alphonso mangoes, and it was the one flavor that we all ranked in our top three. According to Mohan, mangoes make the best sorbet, and while we didn’t compare different versions, several other local sorbet makers we considered for this story—Malai, SkyIce, and L’Albero Dei Gelati—have their own takes on mango sorbet, too. Lucky for us, the summer of sorbet has just begun.
The Editor’s Pick: strawberry sorbet from L’Albero Dei Gelati
If I had to pick one frozen dessert to eat exclusively all summer long, I don’t think I’d ever get tired of the strawberry sorbet from L’Albero Dei Gelati in Park Slope. The owners are second-generation gelato makers who hail from Italy, and if you’re okay with dairy, their impossibly smooth and rich gianduja (that is, chocolate-hazelnut) gelato will bring you to your knees.
But they also make sorbet with incredible depth of flavor and an almost creamy texture. The strawberry captures the essence of sweet, tart, late-spring berries. In the words of my 10-year-old son, Archer D’Angelo, “It just tasted like a real strawberry, not like ice cream, and the crunchy seeds made it seem even more realistic.”
The First-Grader Favorite: dark chocolate sorbet from SkyIce
Owned by Thailand-born Sutheera Denprapa and her husband, Jonathan Bayer, SkyIce serves Thai food and ice cream in Park Slope. One of their specialty desserts is a 12-scoop ice cream tasting plate, offering guests a sampling of their house-made, Asian-inspired ice cream flavors like Thai Coffee, Roasted Thai Coconut, Durian, and Black Sesame Seaweed.
We tried a pair of their sorbet flavors, which divided our tasting team. The cucumber lime sorbet wasn’t sweet enough for the kids, but the adults found it fresh and interesting, and were intrigued to learn that the restaurant serves it in a virgin Mojito float, with lemonade, mint, and club soda.
The parents were less enthused by the dark chocolate sorbet, since it lacked the creaminess of a traditional chocolate ice cream, but the first-grade girls on the panel ranked this cocoa-rich treat as their absolute favorite. “Even though it was sorbet, I still loved it, but I guess I haven’t had chocolate ice cream in a while,” Veera Dameron, 7, said. On six-year-old Ramona D’Angelo’s sorbet scorecard, she simply wrote, “Amazing! Ahhh! LOVE.”
Best boozy sorbets (adults-only, of course): Crème and Cocoa Creamery
At Crème and Cocoa Creamery in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, husband-and-wife team Omar and Astrid Thorpe get flavor inspiration from their Caribbean upbringing—Omar was born in Panama and Astrid’s parents are from Haiti. If you’re hosting a grown-up sorbet tasting party, their boozy sorbets are a must. (We’re talking Hibiscus Fleur, made with warm spices and Caribbean rum, and Gin N Juice, made with pineapple juice and gin.)
The kid-friendly flavors we tried were more tart and icy, like a granita, than the others we sampled—and more popular among the parent tasters. I plan on scooping the leftover Passion for Mangoes, a bright passion-fruit-mango combination, into my next gin and tonic, and maybe adding a scoop of their super citrusy Orange Tamarindo to a vodka-soda, for a round of tropical insta-cocktails on the stoop.
Best seasonal sorbet offerings: Malai
At Malai, founder Pooja Bavishi creates ice cream with the South Asian flavors of her childhood, and Mohan’s Indian-born grandparents are big fans. Mohan prefers the sorbet here, which changes with the season. We tried the softly sweet, floral, and dreamy lychee sorbet.
“It kinda tastes like champagne or something,” Mohan commented.
“You’ve never had champagne!” Mohan’s dad, Chris Dameron quickly cut in, but as the kids laughed hysterically, the grown-ups considered his claim—there was something lightly grapey and effervescent about this one. I imagine you could make an incredible bellini with a scoop of lychee sorbet (instead of the traditional peach puree) in a fizzy flute of prosecco. What better way to toast to the summer?