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Frozen Cocktails, Slushy’s, Granita, or Mocktails are called by many names. but where does Granita come from?

Frozen Cocktails

In Sicily, granita is not just a cool, sweet treat. It’s a part of the culture. It is eaten as part of a traditional Sicilian breakfast, particularly in the summer months, sometimes topped with whipped cream and always accompanied by a Sicilian brioche, or brioscia, which is topped with an extra ball of pastry called a tuppo to represent the traditional low bun that Sicilian women used to wear. 

Although granita and brioche is traditionally a breakfast dish, it is increasingly eaten at any time of day, sometimes as part of a meal. Different Sicilian towns specialise in different flavours and textures of granita, and there many competing claims as to who first invented it.

In the Middle Ages, men called nevarolu made a living by collecting snow from the lofty peak of Mount Etna in the winter, and selling it as an icy treat during the hot Sicilian summers. The snow was stored in caves on the mountainside to prevent it from melting, then packed in jute bags, covered in ferns and straw and carried down the mountain on carts or mules.

When the island came under Arab rule in the 8th century, new ingredients like lemons and sugarcane were introduced to Sicily, and people began adding these to their Mount Etna snow, along with honey, herbs and spices. 

Much later, in the 16th century, enterprising locals began using an early refrigeration device called a pozzetto, made from a wooden vat with a zinc bucket inside. Water, fruit juice and honey or sugar were added to the bucket, while snow and sea salt were packed into the space between the wooden vat and the bucket, freezing the mixture inside. Eventually, hand-operated blades were added to churn up the ice and stop large ice crystals forming, which lead to that crunchy, melt-in-mouth granita texture we know today.

With modern technology, the pozzetto has become a fridge, and the hand operated blades have been replaced by a humble fork used to break up the ice, or an ice cream machine for larger batches. These days, granita is enjoyed all over the world, with a wider variety of flavours than ever before.

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