There you are, lazing on a nice thick carpet before a crackling fire. Rain pounds on the windows, but the soothing stereo drives it from your mind. A favorite book and a friend almost complete the picture.

What's missing? Nothing, some might argue; but others, praised on brisk air, would find the scene incomplete without a steaming mug of spicy mulled wine or mulled cider. "The perfect apres -ski drink," a friend pronounces; but what does he know? Some of us can skip the ski in favor of the apres .

For mulled wine, many people recommend E1 Cheapo brand durgandy, but a moderate-priced California burgundy works just as well. MULLED WINE INGREDIENTS 1 gallon of burgundy 3 to 4 cups of sugar 6 oranges, sliced 4 lemons, sliced A handful of whole cloves (about 50, if you insist) 6 to 8 sticks of cinnamon DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients in a large pot or cauldron and heat until it steams. This potion should never ever be served to those of weak stomach or by those who prize their white rugs.

You think it's cold here? Here's a mulled cider recipe evolved over a score of bitter winters in frozen West Virginia. MULLED CIDER INGREDIENTS 1 gallon of organic apple cider 1 fifth of whiskey 3 tablespoons of frozen orange juice concentrate 4 oranges, sliced A small handful of whole cloves DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients and heat until the mixture steams. Pour into cups in which you have placed a whole cinnamon stick.