“Spiced mulled cocktails are what I crave when I want to relax in the colder months,” says Amy Brandwein of Centrolina in Washington, D.C. “Red wine is usually the base, but Centrolina Wine Director Alissa Diaz develop.”
Using a vegetable peeler, remove peel in wide strips from 2 oranges and from half of the lemon. Juice lemon to equal 2 tablespoons juice; set juice aside.
Heat orange peels, lemon peels, ginger, and 1/2 cup sugar in a large saucepan over medium-high. Cook, stirring and scraping bottom and sides of pan constantly with a wooden spoon, until sugar crystallizes and turns golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes. (The sugar will melt and then crystallize, forming small pebbles.) Slowly stir in 1 bottle of wine. Slowly stir in second bottle of wine; add star anise, cinnamon sticks, vanilla, and reserved 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and bring mixture to a vigorous simmer. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and let mixture steep 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, grate remaining orange to equal 1 packed tablespoon grated zest. Combine orange zest, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Using the back of a spoon, stir and crush mixture until mixture is fragrant and has an orange tint; set aside.
Return pan to heat over medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, about 4 minutes. Pour wine mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a large heatproof bowl; discard solids.
Rub rims of heatproof glasses or mugs with a lemon wedge; dip rims of glasses into orange zest–sugar mixture. Carefully ladle mulled wine into glasses, and serve warm.