You can sort of skimp on the quality of your wine, since you'll be doctoring it.
A lot of spice and no sugar (we use agave syrup, lower on the glycemic index) lends a clean, mild flavor to this holiday classic.
10 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
zest from 1 lemon, in big strips
zest from 1 large orange, in big strips
2 cinnamon sticks (each about 2″ long)
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
2 bottles dry red wine (about 7 cups)
1 cup kirsch
2 cups water
1 cup mild agave syrup
1. Tie the cloves, peppercorns, zest, cinnamon and vanilla in a piece of cheesecloth (you can also use a coffee filter). Or you can just throw everything in the pot, but be careful later when you drink the wine.
2. Combine the “spice bag” with the other ingredients in a large pot.
3. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat as low as it can go and let it quietly bubble away for at least 20 minutes, up to a few hours.
4. Ladle it into glasses and serve.