I believe the difference is that sorbet is pure fruit juice and sugar whereas sherbet contains milk or cream. (This being a notable point for vegans or other dairy sensetive people)

The French word for "sherbet," which Italians call sorbetto. Sorbet is sometimes distinguished from sherbet by the fact that it never contains milk. It's also often a softer consistency than sherbet. Savory or lightly sweetened sorbets are customarily served either as a palate refresher between courses or as dessert. They're sometimes also referred to as ICES or GRANITAS, though both of these mixtures are generally more granular in texture than a sorbet.

from THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst

Sor"bet (?), n. [F. sorbet or It. sorbetto or Sp. sorbete, from the same source as E. sherbet. See Sherbet.]

A kind of beverage; sherbet.

Smolett.

 

© Webster 1913.

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