Once again the choice is all about me. I'm posting a tad late today as I've been down the pub with some of me mukkers from work for a few Britneys and a couple of sherbets. Ah yes, the WotD is all about imbibing again ...
• noun 1 Brit. a flavoured sweet fizzing powder eaten alone or made into a drink.
2 (especially in Arab countries) a drink of sweet diluted fruit juices.
3 N. Amer. water ice; sorbet.
4 Brit. And Austral. Humorous beer.
— ORIGIN Arabic, ‘drink’; related to SYRUP.
As a child sherbet fountains or Sherbet Dabs/Dips were a favourite sweet of mine. Sherbet is a kind of fizzy powder made from bicarbonate of soda, tartaric acid, sugar etc and usually cream soda or fruit flavoured. It used to be stirred into various beverages to make effervescing drinks, in a similar way to making lemonade from lemonade powders. It is often sold in a cardboard tube with a straw made from liquorice as a sherbet fountain. You are supposed to be able to suck the powder up the straw into your mouth (where it fizzles and dissolves on your tongue). However, this rarely works so people tend to tip the sherbet into their mouths and eat the liquorice separately.
Sherbet dips are also popular. You can buy a small packet of sherbet with a lollipop sealed into the bag. Once you lick the lollipop, it can be dipped into the sherbet and sucked off, or used to shovel it into your mouth. Sherbet is also encorporated into other sweets (candies). For example it is used to fill boiled sweets (e.g. sherbet lemons) or wrapped in edible paper shells (flying saucers).
Sherbet (or sherbert) is actually the name of a cooling Turkish drink made from fruit juice.
Enough of my fading childhood memories and on to the slang definition. The use of sherbert as a slang term for beer is noted in a slang dictionary as early as 1890. Today sherbet is generally accepted as covering the whole spectrum of alcoholic drinks. It is still very popular today, especially with cockney comics and soap opera script writers (and Assistant!Jo). I suppose the humour is derived from the fact that sherbet is actually very innocuous and the last thing you would associate with alcohol.
Typical usage would be:
Fancy coming down the pub for a few sherbets?
[Any spolling mistaks and grammatical errors are due to excess consumption of free champagne ... sorry]