Garibaldi’s nearly-Negroni Sicilian orange sorbet with a crunchy twist

“Eventually I found a seat overlooking the old docks and ordered a Campari and orange. The waiter looked bemused and I felt the need to justify myself, explaining I’d often drunk Campari like that, and thought fresh orange juice and ice its ideal companions in a glass. His face lit up and he said, “Ah, we call that a Garibaldi!”

Helena Attlee, The Land where Lemons Grow

Attlee goes on to describe the waiter mixing the drink – blood orange juice and Campari, ice, and ‘a twist of orange peel as long and fine as a shoelace. The cocktail gets its name because it is an in-your-face scarlet which calls to mind the colour of the shirts worn by the camicie rosse, the thousand volunteers who made up Garibaldi’s army, and one of whom, a doctor, was one of my ancestors. She describes the drink as ‘unification in a glass’, combining as it does the blood oranges of Sicily with the characteristic bitter taste contributed by the chinotto, a native of Liguria, right up in the north of Italy next to Piedmont.

This crunchy Sicilian sorbet version of the Garibaldi makes a refreshing end to a rich meal (a Valentine’s dinner for two with a fennel and prawn starter, and venison in pastry with sweetheart cabbage and cranberries as the main course) – the bitterness of the Campari balances out the sweetness of the sorbet. Do not be tempted to try it with ordinary orange juice, it just doesn’t work, although the marriage of non-blood orange juice and Campari is successful as a refreshing, not too alcoholic cocktail – mix three parts orange juice to one part Campari.

bloody orange sorbet

This recipe produces enough sorbet and biscuits for four, but of course the sorbet freezes… and the biscuits keep well in an airtight container, so divide everything in two and enjoy it all again the following week. It’s included in the ‘watching the dosh’ category because although the Campari costs about £15 a bottle, you don’t need that much of it, and the rest of the ingredients are not expensive.  Of course, you can experiment – for example I read recently that Skye Gyngell has recently devised a version of this using mandarin and pomegranate juice instead of the blood orange. The physalis, incidentally, tastes delicious dipped into melted chocolate…

The fashion designer Dries Van Noten, has a secret talent for making a Negroni jelly. If you don’t want a sorbet, forget the freezing and simply add gelatine. However, you would be missing a trick, because, The Sunday Times (24 April 2022) tells us:


Fashion! Beauty! People! Things! This is what everyone will be talking about next. Do keep up!

The reason for sorbet’s elevated status is because this iced dessert features in two new books: The Last Bite by Anna Higham; and Kitty Travers’ La Grotta Ices. Convenient, fresh… and cool in all senses…. what’s not to like about a sorbet?!

blood orange sorbet recipe
Saucy Dressings’ ancestor… looks just like my dad…

A bit more on Garibaldi

The story of the arrival of Garibaldi and his thousand in Sicily and the effect of the changing times on an aristocratic family there is a classic of Italian history – Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, highly recommended. The film is also excellent, albeit by now also a classic itself now, it was made in 1963. See a clip below.

Garibaldi was a charismatic leader – his military triumphs, his flamboyant clothing, his piercing gaze and luxuriant beard made him one of the first celebrity leaders in a time when the media was just getting into its stride. If you are interested in that side of him, Garibaldi: Invention of a Hero by Lucy Riall is worth reading.

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