As it gets colder and wetter outside, we’re getting ready for one of our favorite traditions, the winter house party—and with it, the alcoholic equivalent of the fall/winter tie.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s mulled wine season.

The recipe itself is simple enough: two bottles of dry red wine (whatever’s on sale will be just fine), a splash of brandy and some combination of cloves, cinnamon and oranges. (Here’s a more rigorous recipe, for the curious.) The main trick is keeping it steaming enough to be hot, but not boiling, in which case all those spices will turn bitter. If you don’t have a cauldron like the one above, your best bet is a crock-pot. The good news: your place will smell like sweet red wine for the next few days.

Another crucial point: always taste the wine before you pour it in. One sour bottle can spoil the whole thing, so you can’t be too careful. (Also, it’s wine.)

Aside from some tricky business making the spice pouch, you’re pretty much set. If you want to get tricky, you can use white wine (a German trick) or swap out the standard brandy for something more adventurous like Calvados or Schnapps. We’re partial to a less sweet mulling, but you may want to add your own sugar/honey to taste, just before the guests start to trickle in.

And like most everything, it’s more impressive when paired with a velvet blazer.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom