The Best Store-Bought Eggnog, Tested by Food Network Kitchen
This one’s truly a cup of cheer!
Tested by Melissa Gaman for Food Network Kitchen
With Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror, it’s finally time to break out my all-time favorite holiday drink: eggnog! My love for it is anything but new — in fact, people have been celebrating with eggnog for hundreds of years. Early versions of the drink date all the way back to medieval times with a hot, milky drink called posset. By the 13th century, monks had incorporated figs, eggs and milk — which at that time were considered luxury items — making it something that was enjoyed during celebrations and special occasions only. Fast-forward to the early days of America, and you have essentially the eggnog we drink today.
Whether you are looking to add a few splashes of it into your morning cup of coffee or sip on a small cup of spiked nog at an upcoming holiday party, selecting a quality-prepared version is serious business! We tasted 11 different varieties of widely available eggnog to better understand what truly makes the tastiest drink. Keep reading to see our findings. Cheers!
A Quick Note About Eggnog
Texture and sweetness are key when it comes to eggnog. It shouldn’t be too thick or be too cloying. There should be a strong spice presence as well. While nutmeg is often the most identifiable spice and flavor, cinnamon and vanilla are also common, and every variety of eggnog has a different way of blending and balancing these ingredients.
One sip of this eggnog from Turkey Hill and you’ll immediately say, "Oh yeah, that’s good eggnog!" It’s like muscle memory of the taste buds, meaning that it tastes exactly like what you think eggnog should taste like, but you somehow forgot. It’s perfectly classic — not too thick or sweet — and has a lush butterscotch taste that almost makes it seem boozy right out of the container (even though there’s no booze in it!) It’s also the most nutmeg-forward variety I tried, though it didn’t taste artificial or bitter, and it was super versatile too. To truly get the most out of this nog variety, steam it and pour it over a shot of hot espresso for an at-home latte. It thickens up beautifully, and holds its own against a hearty splash of brandy, too, if you want a more spirited drink.
This eggnog from Southern Comfort was the richest, thickest and creamiest of the bunch. It has a soft yellow and deep ivory color, which is very pleasing when poured out into a cup or mug. Vanilla and cinnamon were the key flavors here, with spicier notes of nutmeg in the background. There wasn’t much eggy-ness to this one either, which made it slightly reminiscent of melted ice cream. But all of this works in its overall favor, making Southern Comfort’s nog a good choice for someone who wants to really indulge and sip on a small glass. And yes — it pairs perfectly with a slosh of Southern Comfort Whiskey, though just to be clear, the eggnog itself has no booze in it!
Let’s face it, there aren’t many people who can enjoy a glass of eggnog regularly without noticing the effects around their waistline. It is indulgent by nature and that’s great! But if you love that creamy nutmeg-gy flavor of eggnog and want to enjoy it — a lot — while it’s around, there are choices that are smarter for your health and waistline. Bolthouse Farms keeps their version of nog lighter with low-fat milk for the dairy and a combination of sugar, agave syrup and even some carrot juice concentrate for sweetness. Egg yolks help give it just enough richness and viscosity to satisfy, though it is a little more slippery on the tongue (thanks to added gums) than the more indulgent full-fat versions. Regardless, this version is full of spicy nutmeg and vanilla bean flecks, and it goes down easy without weighing you down literally!
The minute you pour this seasonal drink from Hood into a cup, you know it’s going to be something new. For starters, it’s a lovely shade of orange! This drink also gets bonus points for including actual pumpkin puree in the ingredients list, which you can really taste as you sip. It’s creamy, sweet, heavy on the cinnamon and gives you the overall vibe of liquid pumpkin pie. It may be a little too different from traditional eggnog for some, but if you want to add something new to the mix this year, this is the one to buy!
It’s a sad truth that many people are vigorously in the "pass" category when it comes to eggnog. My own sister cites it as too thick, too rich and too eggy. She audibly shuddered when explaining her disdain to me over the phone recently. She will make an exception for her mother-in-law’s coquito, however, which makes me think that So Delicious' Coconutmilk Holiday Nog would be the best choice to bring her and other skeptics around to team eggnog. This allergy-friendly drink has neither dairy nor eggs in it, so it’s "technically" not nog. But for the eggnog naysayer, this is actually beneficial! It’s still creamy and gently spiced, but not heavy, and the lack of egg lightens up both the texture and the flavor. The hint of coconut at the end is a tropical kiss and pairs nicely with a splash of rum, if you're looking for a more festive beverage.
How We Tested
We tested 11 different eggnogs total, based on those currently available to me both online and in supermarkets. We evaluated each eggnog variety based on their overall color, texture, taste and smell. We tasted them over the course of a few days, but I made sure to taste each eggnog brand more than once and sipped plain seltzer to cleanse my palate between tastes. We also tried my favorites with a splash of brandy to see how it tasted spiked, or if any nogs curdled once the alcohol was added. Lastly, we steamed each eggnog variety in my Nespresso milk steamer to see how they frothed, and then tasted each with fresh espresso.