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My mom was inspired by my rosemary simple syrup gift, and decided to follow up with a bottling project of her own: mulled wine. I love the classic timelessness of this throwback drink for the holiday season; while it may not have the cool factor of a fancy cocktail, it feels cozy and traditional. And it makes your house smell amazing. My mom is obsessed with morning talk shows, so her recipe of choice came from The Love Chef on LIVE with Kelly & Michael. Here is her big batch take, to give the bottles as gifts:

6 bottles cabernet sauvignon (we used Layer Cake)
1 bottle brandy (3 cups)
3 cups honey
4 cinnamon sticks
peel of 3 oranges
1 tablespoon cardamom
1 tablespoon whole cloves

Mix wine, brandy, honey, cinnamon sticks and orange peels in a large pot. Combine cardamom and cloves in a tea diffuser, and drop it into the above ingredients. Heat over medium-low heat until steam begins to rise from the pot; do not boil (for us, with a batch this large, this took 20 minutes). Let it steep for 20 minutes over very low heat. Stir periodically.

While the wine is steeping, fill the wine bottles with hot water and then soak them in hot water so the label is covered in a stock pot (this can simmer over low heat on the stove next to the pot of brewing mulled wine). After 15 minutes or so, remove the bottles and run under cold water. Once cool, scrub the label off with a Dobie sponge. (If the label absolutely won’t budge, our secret is to scrub with nail polish remover. Obviously, this task should be done with bottle cap on and should not be done near the open flame of the stove, and the bottle will need to be thoroughly cleaned with dish soap if you go this route.)

Remove the cinnamon sticks, orange peels and tea diffuser, and pour into wine bottles. (Mom let Tony “help” with this task, but was worried her oven mitts weren’t clean enough, so she gently but firmly requested he do it with his bare hands. We learned from experience you should use oven mitts during this step.) Distribute to and delight your over-21 gift recipients!

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