We tasted through more than a dozen commercially available options to find the ones worth seeking out.
What makes eggnog eggnog? Nominally: cream, milk, sugar, eggs and nutmeg, occasionally with a dose of bourbon, rum or Cognac (or all three). But when the Punch team recently amassed more than a dozen store-bought nogs to sample, we found few that contained all of the expected ingredients. Three were dairy-free, and several skipped the actual egg; one was described as “eggnog-flavored milk” as opposed to the genuine article. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. When it comes to this drink, it’s a vibe, rather than a set formula, that we’re looking for: a creamy texture, a hint of vanilla, enough spice to read as a holiday treat. In other words, a drink that tastes like melted ice cream.
After trying 13 commercially available versions, we found the three that were the very best for drinking on their own, spiking or even throwing into a New Orleans–style Eggnog Daiquiri. Here are the ones to look for.
A classic for a reason, Hood’s Golden Eggnog had the right creamy, well-integrated texture and nutmeg flavor. Found for as low as $2.50 for a quart, this affordable option is the most archetypal of the group (one taster described it as “nostalgic”), though it is also one of the sweetest that we sampled. But, hey, it’s the holidays.
Several eggnogs we tasted were too runny and thin or tried to make up for a lack of body (best provided by real cream and eggs) with gummy stabilizers. Perhaps that’s why this option, made simply with milk, cream, eggs, vanilla and spices, is self-described as “eggnog like it used to taste.” It has a rich texture and flavor reminiscent of cake batter, with a hint of salt to tie the whole thing together. Consider this a special-occasion eggnog—it’s one of the most expensive we tried. Arethusa only makes a few limited-run releases a year, so if it’s at your local store, grab it.
In the dairy-free subset of eggnogs, unsurprisingly, many lacked the round, decadent texture of the traditional drink. Some were chalky, coming out of the carton separated (even after shaking) or were too thin, reading more like cereal milk than eggnog. (Almond Breeze’s nutty take on the drink was an exception; full-bodied and spiced, it’s worth picking up for any vegan drinkers.) While not milk-free, Lactaid’s Eggnog is a surprising standout for anyone who is lactose-intolerant. Of all the eggnogs we sampled, it captured the most “melted ice cream” feel.