Cool Drinks, Boston: Sharbat at Sofra Bakery and Café
Sherbets and sorbets require a spoon, but they date back to the Persian Empire, when vividly flavored fruit- or flower-based syrups were mixed with snow to make a cool, refreshing drink called sharbat.
The technique Cambridge's chef/co-owner Maura Kilpatrick follows at Sofra Bakery and Cafe riffs the original; depending on the season, she spices up subtle pear with cardamom, adds faint sting to strawberry concentrate with crushed pink peppercorns, and (as pictured above) freshens a sweet-tart rhubarb reduction with mint leaves.
The sharbat syrup is quite sweet, but once you mix it up (yes, you should do this) the sparkling water dilutes it and keeps it from tasting saccharine. I'd say it can be just as sweet as a soda, but more naturally so; since it actually starts with fruit, it doesn't leave that sugary film on your teeth.