The holidays are here. That means a few different things: Christmas music has infiltrated our radios, playlists, and retail stores, empty lots have turned into Christmas tree factories, and your neighbors have begun their annual “friendly” yard decorations competition. Perhaps there is snow. One thing is certain, though: eggnog has hit the shelves.
I love eggnog. The exact moment when eggnog appears on the shelves is my personal marker for the start of the holiday season. There is nothing like that spiced drink to bring about images of Christmas morning (my mom used to make eggnog french toast every Christmas) and late-night holiday revelry. Still, it is a polarizing drink, and a total unknown for many people . Many questions remain about eggnog…
Is it even a proper drink? What exactly is eggnog? Is it not just a glorified uncooked custard? Brandy, bourbon, or rum? Eggnog or egg nog?
While I can’t answer those questions, I can direct you towards the most delicious version of eggnog available. And that is what I will do.
- Trader Joe’s Eggnog
- Alta Dena Holiday Egg Nog
- Southern Comfort Traditional Egg Nog
- Organic Valley Eggnog
- Strauss Family Creamery Organic Eggnog
- Rosa Brothers Eggnog
- Alexander Farms Organic A2 Eggnog
These are the competitors in the first annual Blue Lifestyle Eggnog Taste Test. The entries represent a cross-section of the eggnog industry, varying in availability, price, and ingredients. My aim is to have a mix of easy to obtain, mainstream eggnog, as well as more local, artisanal varieties.
I will be using a four-piece scoring system, involving taste, texture, appearance, and value, with the reservation that I can throw in any arbitrary je ne sais quoi judgement should I find it necessary.
Unfortunately, this is an alcohol-free taste test, even if eggnog is traditionally an alcoholic drink. But don’t let that stop you. Visit our reviews for brandy or any other mixing agent you prefer in your nog, if you want to keep it traditional.
Additionally, there are no alternative milk or low-fat eggnog options in this list. I feel it is unfair to compare these eggnogs to the standard versions. That being said, there remains plenty of eggnog options for those with dairy or egg allergies or for those looking for a low-fat version.
Trader Joe’s Eggnog – $2.99
This is the flagship, non-alcoholic eggnog of the alternative super market giant, Trader Joe’s. Adorned with a variety of fonts and an anthropomorphic cow (typical of TJ’s designs), the nog looks appealing.
In a glass, the eggnog has a standard tan-cream color. It smells like what I imagine eggnog smells like: sweet, with a whiff of nutmeg. In fact, it has an almost punch-bowl, fruit smell. Definitely one of the strongest aromas of all the contenders.
The texture is right in the middle of thick and thin. It tastes like there is an artificial brandy flavor incorporated into it, which creates an astringent flavor on the finish. Not a lot of dairy to take note of and a little too sweet. The spice is like a single wave washing over a shore.
For the price, it’s ok. But to be honest, I was hoping for more.
Rosa Brother’s Egg Nog – $6.99
This eggnog has a gorgeous yellow color, with visible specks of grated nutmeg. Combined with the glass bottle, it makes for a very tempting appearance. Rosa Brothers is an organic, family-dairy business from California’s central valley. So far, so good.
You can smell the nutmeg, but it’s pretty mild. There is a definite, pleasant milky aroma.
The nog is not overly sweet, with an almost a savory note at the end. Buttery texture and flavor. Very smooth. The spice is not overwhelming at all, although you get a strong whiff of nutmeg when you exhale. It’s thinner than expected for a glass bottle eggnog.
Overall, it’s very good. Still, I’d like something with a little more body to it.
Southern Comfort Traditional Egg Nog – $2.99
With people vouching for Southern Comfort as the best “store-bought” eggnog around, there is the weight of expectations on this eggnog brand. I guess the age old question of “can a company that specializes in flavored bourbons also create great eggnog?” will finally be answered.
To start, I like the packaging. The contrast between black and yellow is appealing, and makes the eggnog stand out on the shelf.
In the glass, the eggnog looks almost pure white, like sea-foam white. It’s definitely less yellow than the eggnog displayed on the front of the packaging. The aroma is nutty with very faint hints of spice.
The nog has a lingering, cloying sweetness. It’s thick, like melted milkshake thick. In fact it’s almost gummy, probably due to high-fructose corn syrup used as sweetener. Not very nice. Still, it does have a very pleasant buttery finish.
Overall, the Southern Comfort option is very one note, like a slow moving mass of eggy-sweetness that rises and falls as one. You can barely even pick up any spice. It’s like they just waved some nutmeg in the general direction of the eggnog.
To be completely honest, it’s unpleasant to drink. It begs for brandy, not only to thin it out and to bring a little more flavor, but to get you past the point of caring.
Strauss Family Creamery Organic Eggnog – $7.99
Glass bottles raise expectations. It’s a fact of life. So when you put your eggnog in a glass bottle, just know that I am getting my big-boy judge pants out. Strauss’ motto, “Our philosophy is one of pure, simple ingredients, minimally processed,” indicates they keep their standard high as well. So let’s see what this Northern California dairy and creamery can do.
The nog smells like melted butter, almost nutty. The smell of freshly grated nutmeg is confirmed by the dark specks of spice swimming in the bottle. The liquid itself is just a shade darker than eggshell white.
It has a very mild taste, showcasing the dairy and nicely balanced sweetness. The flavor is truly excellent, with a clean, buttery finish. The spice is there without being boring or overwhelming.
The problem is, the nog is very thin, too thin for my taste. It’s more like drinking a glass of sweet milk than eggnog. In fact, if I was blindfolded and handed a glass of Strauss Organic Eggnog, I might not even be able to identify it as eggnog. Perhaps that says more about me than the nog itself, but that’s my opinion.
So in the end, it’s kind of disappointing for the price. I would not recommend it if you are looking for a traditional eggnog. It’s good, it just doesn’t remind me of eggnog.
Alta Dena Holiday Egg Nog – $2.79
Alta Dena is about as mainstream an eggnog as you can get. The company has been doing their holiday eggnog for as long as I can remember, and it remains a popular, widely-available option.
The eggnog is a kind of pale tan that would unironically make a great wallpaper color. It has a strong, sweet nutmeg smell without a whiff of dairy.
This one is sweet, maybe too sweet for some, but right down my alley. It definitely doesn’t tip the scale for sweetness, though. Perfect texture between thick and thin. There is some back of the tongue bitterness that seems out of place, perhaps due to the inclusion of additional spices like ginger and annatto. Good buttery aftertaste.
Just like with the Trader Joe’s brand, though, I feel like the Alta Dena Holiday Egg Nog is trying to recreate the brandy flavor without actual brandy. Still, for it’s price range, this eggnog is pretty darn good.
Organic Valley Eggnog – $5.99
Organic Valley has a range of dairy products from cheese to milk to butter. They also produce their own eggs, so the jump to eggnog is a natural one. In fact, Organic Valley Eggnog is one of the only contestants bringing their own eggs to the nog process.
On first examination the nog looks a little thin. It has visible specks of nutmeg, and a pale tan-white color. There is little aroma to report other than a light smell of nutmeg.
The taste is very good. The sweetness is perfectly balanced. It’s more on the thin side and not strongly spiced at all, but the nutmeg is there. Overall, a very mild, middle-of-the-road kind of eggnog, but done very well. It did not have a strong egg or dairy flavor, but what flavor is there is pretty good. I found myself wanting to return to this eggnog more often than the others.
It would benefit greatly from a little more thickness and a bit of brandy, but overall it’s worth it for the price.
Alexandre Family Farm A2/A2 Organic Homegrown Eggnog – $9.49
This eggnog was the presumptive favorite going into the taste test, on account of its price, packaging, and local brand. Made with “Alexandre Kids Eggs,” the nog looks eggy, indeed.
The color is a vibrant pastel yellow. It smells like pumpkin pie, and a quick look at the ingredient list confirms that it is using a wider variety of holiday spices, such as allspice, cinnamon, and clove, than in the other nogs. It also uses extracts of those spices, giving the eggnog a uniform appearance.
The taste is reminiscent of pumpkin pie, too, although the first thing you get is a full blast of that patented “Alexandre Kids Eggs” taste. The sweetness is balanced very well, but I’m left missing any notes of nutmeg. The overall character of this eggnog is focused heavily on the dairy and eggs part of the drink. Although it’s rich, the drink could be a smidge thicker.
As the most expensive entry on this list, it doesn’t quite live up the hype. Is it worth it? If you like things like egg custard, you will probably enjoy this, but for those looking for a more balanced eggnog experience, you are better off elsewhere.
So there you have it. There is no runaway winner in this eggnog competition. Perhaps I am too stringent. Perhaps the “perfect” eggnog doesn’t actually exist, it’s just a platonic ideal, dangled over me every holiday season. Perhaps I need to grow my pool of contestants. These are all valid questions, but they will have to wait until next year to be answered.
All I know now is that I have a stomach-ache and enough eggnog to last me until summer.
By Aldo Moreno