2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 750-ml bottle white zinfandel
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 small bunch sage
1 small bunch thyme
Rind and 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
1 cup pear eau-de-vie or brandy
1 firm ripe pear, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1. Place peppercorns and cloves in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until fragrant, 2 minutes.
2. Add wine, sugar, sage, thyme, lemon rind and juice; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Return mixture to saucepan. Stir in eau-de-vie and pear slices. Simmer over medium-low heat until pears are fork-tender but still retain their shape, 8 to 10 minutes.
-- Maria del Mar Sacasa, "Winter Cocktails" (Quirk, $22.95, 160 pages)