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A gift for the host or hostess: Homemade mulled wine kit

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By Kelly Wilkinson
Wednesday, December 15, 2010; 5:21 PM

Along with pine needles and a chimney smoke, rich, earthy mulled wine smells like winter to me.

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Of course, along with homecoming smells, one of the many other associations with the holidays is chaos, even if it's the happy and anticipatory kind. This can be a long season of to-do lists and commitments. So let me try to help with one small part of the holiday challenge: the host or hostess gift.

For open houses, cocktail parties and holiday dinners, arriving with a homemade kit for mulled wine (or cider) is like bringing a bottle of wine, with bonus points. The pair of mismatched teacups closed around a spice pouch mimics a stout little Faberge egg (picked up for pennies at a thrift store or flea market). A handsome glass flask from the canning section of the hardware store displays the wine. And when your host opens the cups, he or she will find a pouch of mulled wine spices with handwritten instructions. Perfect for cozying up by the fire.

You can easily assemble several of these in moments, once you have all the supplies on hand. And sipping the spiced wine or cider out of teacups adds a touch of grandeur that feels appropriate this time of year - so be sure to make a set for yourself.

You'll Need

--Unbleached muslin cloth or cheesecloth

--Scissors

--Spices: 10 whole cloves, 6 allspice berries, 3-4 cinnamon sticks (broken in half), 2 star anise seeds, 2 cardamom pods and about 1 teaspoon of dried orange peel

--Baker's twine

--Paper label with hole (for instructions)

--Japanese paper tape (optional)

--Pen

--Bottle of red wine or apple cider

--Funnel

--Glass jar (a 17-ounce jar takes about a half a bottle of wine)

--Adhesive label (for wine bottle)

--Stamp and ink pad (optional)

--2 teacups, with same diameter

--Decorative ribbon, at least 2 feet long

How to

1. Cut an 8-inch square of muslin or cheesecloth and place your spices in the center. Using whole spices instead of ground ones will keep the mulled wine clear instead of cloudy as it simmers.

2. Pull together the corners of the muslin and tie them with a length of baker's twine. Leave the ends long for now and trim after adding the label.

3. Run a piece of Japanese paper tape along the short edge of the label to add some pattern. Write instructions for mulling the wine: Tell your recipient to add the whole pouch and the contents of the wine bottle to a saucepan and let it simmer for at least a half an hour without reaching a boil. Pour into cups and sip.

4. String the end of the baker's twine on the pouch through the hole in the label and around the center of an anise seed, if desired.

5. Funnel the wine from its bottle into a smaller, glass bottle.

6. Stamp the adhesive label (if desired) and add a message to the label. Affix it to the wine bottle.

7. Position the two teacups so their rims meet. Place the spice pouch inside the cups, and tie them together with ribbon.

Wilkinson is a craft designer and journalist. Find more of her projects at www.makegrowgather.com.

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