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To prepare the oranges, if using 2 small, slice one orange into rounds and slice the other in half. If using 1 large orange, slice it in half through the round middle, then slice one of the halves into rounds. Place the rounds into a medium heavy-bottomed pot or small Dutch oven. Squeeze the juice from the remaining oranges into the pot.
Pour the wine into the pot, followed by the brandy. Add 1 tablespoon of the sweetener for now. Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise and cloves.
Warm the mixture over medium heat until steaming (about 5 minutes), and keep an eye on it. When you start seeing the tiniest of bubbles at the surface, reduce the heat to the lowest of low.
Carefully taste, and add another tablespoon of sweetener if it’s not sweet enough for your liking. If it’s not spicy enough to suit your preferences, continue cooking over very low heat for 5 to 10 more minutes.
Serve in mugs with your desired garnishes! If you’re adding cranberries as I did, you can add them to the pot to make it look extra festive.
If you expect to polish off the mulled wine within 20 minutes or so, you can keep it on the stove over extra-low heat (it will become more spicy with time). Otherwise, remove it from the heat, cover, and rewarm over low heat if necessary. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days, covered (pour it through a strainer if you don’t want it to become any more spicy than it already is).