Move over, PSL, it’s eggnog’s time to shine. For those of us who associate The Holidays™ with a glass of the custard-like beverage, the sight of bottles and cartons of nog snuggled against the usual dairy offerings at the grocery store is a welcome sight.
But it’s also overwhelming! Which one do you choose? The generic grocery store brand, or the expensive organic stuff?
While homemade eggnog is the best, it’s easier to grab a bottle at the store and live off of it for a week — put it in your coffee, turn it into a nightcap with bourbon, drink it from the bottle while standing at the fridge … there are no more rules.
Proper eggnog should have a golden color, but shouldn’t actually taste like eggs. It should be laced with nutmeg and maybe cinnamon. And when buying it at the store, there are obviously a lot of additives to be wary of, but sometimes you just have to do your best.
To help make your holiday season more festive, HuffPost enlisted the help of Kelly Cornett, an Atlanta-based wine educator and host of the podcast ”A Cork in the Road.” We taste tested 11 nationally available eggnogs (three of them are nondairy) and there was definitely a clear winner. Here are the picks, from best to worst.
When Santa’s face is blown up and plastered on the bottle, it’s a sign of good things. Mayfield’s eggnog hit the right notes all the way around. It was a visual treat in the glass with a deep golden hue and plenty of flecks of spices, and had the flavor and texture to support it. “I’m so down with this,” Cornett said. “The texture is decadent. This is like dessert.”
2. 365 Everyday Value
The Whole Foods brand eggnog is not for the calorie-conscious — it packs a whopping 210 calories per half cup — but at least it’s incredibly delicious. Cornett’s first observation was how aromatic it was. “It kind of reminds me of when Cinnamon Toast Crunch sits in your cereal too long,” she said. Warming, and not too sweet with almost the right texture moved it up to No. 2 on our list. Bonus points for mostly pronounceable ingredients.
3. Market Pantry
The first thing you notice about the Target brand eggnog is how much it resembles melted ice cream. It’s slightly eggy, but has a strong vanilla and ginger flavor (ginger is great, but nutmeg is a defining spice of eggnog). While it wasn’t a beverage that we wanted to sit around and drink by the fire, the thinner consistency did seem like it would lend itself nicely to cooking (let’s say, French toast) and could be properly spiced in the process.
Lactaid is lactose-free (meaning it’s had an enzyme called lactase added to it), but that didn’t stop it from ranking moderately high on our list. It had a nice vanilla flavor with a hint of spice, making it delicious to sip, even if not as “noggy” as we would have liked.
5. Southern Comfort
The liqueur brand makes a booze-free eggnog and it’s ― fine. The color is so yellow it “resembles beaten eggs,” Cornett said, and it was almost cloyingly sweet. But we wouldn’t be offended if someone served us this, and maybe if you added some SoCo it would make a nice sipper.
6. Promised Land Dairy
Things were off to a — ahem — promising start with Promised Land and its old fashioned-looking bottle. The nog’s golden hue was inviting, but was too sweet and lacked depth. “That’s more like condensed milk kind of sweetness. Not a warm spice sweetness,” Cornett said. It was like drinking sugary liquid yogurt.
7. Trader Joe’s
We had high hopes for the Trader Joe’s brand of eggnog, but it thudded harder than Santa’s fall off the roof in ”The Santa Clause.” It had a thin consistency, and the turmeric in the beverage overtook the flavor. “This is just kind of a basic milk beverage. It doesn’t really float in one way or the other,” Cornett said.
8. Horizon Low Fat
Horizon, an organic brand, appears to only sell low-fat eggnog. It had a runny consistency and tasted synthetically sweet, which was surprising, considering the listed ingredients all were real. Sadly, it moved straight to the top of our naughty list.
1. 356 Everyday Value Almond Nog
Almond milk will never be that thick, but 365’s almond nog did a pretty good job replicating the real deal. Although cinnamon isn’t listed in the ingredients (it contains nutmeg and ginger), it had a warm cinnamon scent that made up for the lack of dairy and eggs. If you don’t drink dairy or you want a lower calorie option, this would be a great one.
Soy milk isn’t without its problems, but Silk’s dairy-free nog was the best of the three we tried. It was almost rich and had a nice hint of spice.
3. Califia Farms
The almond milk brand’s nog bottle certainly sets a festive tone, but unfortunately, it had a watery consistency and was way too sweet. We’re not saying you’d have to be a cotton-headed ninny muggins to drink this one, but you can do better.