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Pour on the holiday spirit with liquor largesse

The Associated Press
Modified: November 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm •  Published: November 9, 2012

photo - In this image taken on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, Canton, a French ginger liqueur, served in cinnamon tea is shown in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
In this image taken on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, Canton, a French ginger liqueur, served in cinnamon tea is shown in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

It's no secret that liquor is a simple solution to holiday gift-giving. You don't see a lot of people lining up Dec. 26 to return bottles of 12-year-old Scotch. And what better way to embrace the spirit of giving than by giving a spirit?

But let's face it, sticking a ribbon on a generic bottle of booze can come across as a bit uninspired. Here, then, are a few suggestions to avoid a case of the blahs by choosing spirits that are good in the glass, but also do double duty in the kitchen, adding zest to seasonal dishes.

— Appleton Estate Reserve Jamaica Rum

A blend of 20 different rums that's aged in oak barrels, Appleton Estate Reserve can be sipped on the rocks or in classic cocktails like the mai tai. Stove-side it's good stirred into chocolate fondue with the spiced vanilla, nuts and candied orange flavors of the rum melting into the rich chocolate. An Appleton recipe calls for heating 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons plain or vanilla yogurt and a half cup of heavy whipping cream until hot but not boiling, then stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons of rum and pouring the whole thing over 7 ounces of chopped semisweet chocolate. Into a heated fondue pot it goes, and let the dipping commence.

— Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon

There are two ways to serve turkey — too dry or too raw. Wild Turkey bourbon, on the other hand, is ready at the twist of a cap, absolutely no basting required. Aged six-to-eight years, the drink can be served straight or as a mixer in cocktails like the newly fashionable Old Fashioned.

On the culinary side, try boosting the brown-sugar-plus-butter treatment for baked acorn squash halves by spooning a tablespoon of bourbon into the cavities, along with a dusting of cinnamon. It also is delicious stirred into buttered and mashed sweet potatoes. A little brown sugar in there is nice, too.

— Oro Azul Tequila Reposado

Double distilled and made from 100 percent blue agave, this tequila comes in a pyramid-shaped blue bottle. "Reposado" means "rested," and indicates the spirit has been aged in oak barrels for at least two months, but less than a year. (Oro Azul reposado is rested for six months.) A Christmas margarita might hit the spot. Or why not stir a few tablespoons into your special secret homemade queso dip? (Is that a Velveeta box and a can of Rotel tomatoes in the kitchen? We'll never tell.)

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