Tales of the Cocktail features 350 brands from around the world, and seminars highlight how to use them in drinks, the history and culture of regional spirits and what's new in the industry. Below are some of the seminars on far-flung spirits.
Curacao is a small island off the coast of Venezuela, influenced by the Dutch and Spanish. An orange-flavored liqueur was developed there when Dutch recipes for multiple-ingredient liqueurs were changed to highlight single citrus fruits. Various bottlings of curacao came to be commonly used cocktail ingredients. The seminar "Curacao: The Ultimate Guide to the World's Favorite Liqueur Flavor" (12:30 p.m. Thursday, Hotel Monteleone, tickets $47) features live distilling of a curacao and discussion of its use in cocktails.
India produces a vast array of little-known regional spirits and liqueurs, but few are known across the entire nation, and most never leave the country. See "Out of India" (p. 18) for an introduction to some rare and not so rare spirits.
Developed in the early 1500s, pisco is one of the hemisphere's earliest distilled spirits. A brandy-like distillate of wine, pisco was made and popularized in both Peru and Chile. "Pisco Wars: Peru vs. Chile since 1613" (10 a.m. Thursday, Hotel Monteleone, tickets $47) looks at the South American native spirit's rise and the two nations' competing claims for superior production.
Moviegoers may remember Bill Murray's awkward efforts to lend a suave Rat Pack aura to Suntory Whiskey in the film Lost in Translation. Suntory is one of Japan's premiere whiskey distillers and has been in business since the 1920s. A series of seminars ("Non-stop to Kyoto") offer tastes of various Suntory whiskies and an introduction to Japanese whiskey bars. Hourlong tasting events are scheduled Thursday and Friday at Loft 523. Visit www.talesofthecocktail for times. Tickets $55.
Dry vermouth was a key component in a classic martini until the desire for dry martinis expunged it from the recipe. The aromatic, fortified wine, dry or sweet, is making a comeback in other cocktails. France and Italy produced many of the best-known vermouths, but "New World Vermouth" (10 a.m. Saturday, Hotel Monteleone, tickets $47) looks at bottlings made in New World wine producing countries.
Few spirits are as associated with a nation and culture as vodka is with Russia. "Russian Drinking Culture" (12:30 p.m. Friday, Hotel Monteleone, tickets $47) reviews the history of vodka, from its birth to its taxation and involvement with the tsars, to Russian prohibition (1914-1925), which applied only to retail sales, to the Soviet era. There are many types of vodkas and there are differences between grain vodka and grain wines. The seminar explores Russian drinking culture, Russian bars and vodka cocktails.
For more information, visit www.talesofthecocktail.com.