If surging booze sales are an indicator, Ontarians are recovering from the recession and spending their money on some of the LCBO's finer offerings.

CTV News has learned the provincial Crown corporation had $3.1 billion in sales as of Dec. 4, which is $136 million ahead of 2009's pace -- about a 4.6 per cent increase in sales.

It's been estimated that the LCBO will write a cheque to the provincial government for $1.5 billion when its fiscal year ends on March 31.

The province's casinos are actually losing money.

Observers attribute the higher sales volume to good marketing and a renewed taste for premium products. Here are some sales figures as of Dec. 4:

  • Ontario craft beers - up 53.8 per cent to $10.5 million
  • Ontario VQA wines - up 14.8 per cent to $65.7 million
  • "Vintages" wines - up 12.9 per cent to
  • imported spirits - up 6.5 per cent to $511 million
  • premium whiskies -  up 2.1 per cent $153 million

Total spirits sales have increased by 2.8 per cent to $1.2 billion. Wine sales are up three per cent to $795 million, and beer sales are up 5.4 per cent to $680 million.

The LCBO said the following products are proving popular this holiday season:

  • liqueurs
  • sparking wine
  • craft and specialty beers
  • vodka, particularly flavoured vodkas
  • varietal wines
  • one-pour cocktails

People who haven't bought their holiday booze yet will get some extended hours this coming week. Many stores that close at 6 p.m. will now stay open as late as 10 p.m. until Dec. 23.

Some stores will extend their Sunday hours by staying open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

LCBO stores will close at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. The stores will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Paul Bliss