Christmas Drinks

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SPICED RED WINE WITH BRANDY AND CITRUS

The French often serve flavored wine as an aperitif. This one has a base of red wine infused with orange, lemon, vanilla and cloves; it is later mixed with raspberry brandy and sugar. The drink is best at cool room temperature, accompanied by nibbles such as olives, almonds and crudités. It also makes an excellent Christmas present — just double or triple the recipe, and pour the drink into pretty bottles. Be sure to begin the "winemaking" process at least three weeks before you plan to have the wine or give it as a gift.

1 orange, sliced
1/2 lemon, sliced
1 vanilla bean
Peel from 1 orange (orange part only, removed with vegetable peeler)
6 whole cloves
1 750-ml bottle dry red wine (such as Côtes du Rhône or Merlot)

1/2 cup framboise eau de vie or brandy
6 tablespoons sugar

Combine sliced orange and lemon, vanilla bean, orange peel and cloves in large glass jar. Pour wine over. Cover and place in cool dark area for 2 weeks.

Strain wine through several layers of cheesecloth into 4-cup measuring cup. Discard solids in
cheesecloth. Add framboise and sugar to wine; stir until sugar dissolves. Pour mixture into wine bottle or decorative bottle. Cork bottle and place in cool dark area for at least 1 week. (Can be made 6 weeks ahead. Store in cool dark area.) Serve in small wineglasses.

Makes 3 cups

NOSE-WARMER PUNCH

3 bottles dry red wine
1 1/2 cups brandy
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
8 whole cloves
3 small lemons, zest scored lengthwise if desired with a channel knife and fruit sliced thin crosswise

In a large saucepan bring wine and brandy to a simmer with sugar, cinnamon and cloves, stirring, and cook at a bare simmer 2 minutes. Stir in lemon slices and ladle into heat-proof cups.

Makes about 12 1/2 cups, serving 12.

Gourmet
December 1994