Nieve de garrafa is a type of handmade, water-based sorbet native to Mexico. It’s lighter than traditional ice cream and it has a coarse consistency, achieved as the water (or milk) freezes.
What’s special about this sorbet is its preparation: it’s handmade with natural ingredients including water (or milk), sugar, and a wide array of natural flavorings like seasonal fruits, nuts, liquors and even flowers. The most traditional flavors are coconut, lemon, strawberry, vanilla, pineapple and nuts. Other popular options include coffee, hibiscus, mamey, cantaloupe, dragon fruit and corn.
The name “nieve de garrafa” derives from the stainless steel container used to prepare and store the sorbet. The carafe is placed in a bigger wooden barrel, and the space between the two is filled with ice and coarse salt (salt is used to prevent the ice from melting). Once the ingredients are combined, they’re poured into the container, which is spun constantly until it thickens. Depending on the flavor or on whether you use milk or water, it can take anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours to be ready. The secret behind a good nieve de garrafa is the salt and the method used to spin the container.
Throughout the year, some parts of the country host nieve de garrafa festivals where you can find traditional flavors as well as more exotic ones like rose petals, tequila and jalapeño.
These wonderful icy treats are no longer exclusive to Mexico. They’re also becoming popular in many cities in the United States. If there’s a place close to you that makes them, I invite you to give them a try. I’m sure your taste buds will appreciated the unique flavor and texture of a nieve de garrafa.