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[Photographs: Alice Gao]

The Winners!

#1: Organic Valley
#2: Hood Golden
#3: (Tie) Southern Comfort and Turkey Hill

Homemade eggnog can be a delicious thing, enriched with fresh eggs and cream, a careful grating of nutmeg, and just the right amount of sugar. (Plus a dunked cookie or two.) But mixing it up yourself can seem a little daunting (and holiday entertaining already has you frazzled), plus you might be nervous about raw egg safety. So you're just going to pick up a carton at the grocery store. But which brand should you buy? We recently conducted a blind taste test to figure out which is the best nationally-available brand of premade eggnog, the kind you find in the dairy case.

The Contenders

We included ten nationally available brands of refrigerated eggnog. We didn't get into any wacky flavored eggnogs here; just the traditional stuff. We did include two non-dairy eggnog options for the milk-averse. None of these eggnogs contain alcohol.

  1. Turkey Hill (website)
  2. Organic Valley (website)
  3. Southern Comfort
  4. Horizon Organic (website)
  5. Hood Golden (website)
  6. Whole Foods 365
  7. Trader Joe's
  8. Bolthouse Farms (website)
  9. So Delicious (website)
  10. Silk (website)

The Criteria

So we looked for packaged eggnog that offered the most natural-tasting egg flavor, richness without gumminess, balanced spicing, and no strange off-flavors or aftertaste.

The Results

In general, supermarket eggnog is pretty sweet, and our tasters didn't grade down too much for that. Instead, they were especially critical of strange off-flavors. Some brands were marked down for artificial-seeming vanilla notes or a fake-booze flavor. No one wants to drink an eggnog that tastes like bananas, like bubblegum, or like perfume.

There are a couple of reasons that store-bought 'nog will never taste as good as home made. First off, homemade eggnog gets its thickness and flavor from real eggs, but compared to other ingredients in commercial eggnog, eggs are expensive. The FDA only requires that eggnog contain 1% egg yolk by weight, and most companies are inclined to use the absolute minimum amount, resorting to cheaper ways to make their nog taste thick and rich. That explains the prevalence of thickeners like carrageenan, guar gum, and locust bean gum. And we know you all love your carrageenan...

Second, traditional home-made nog is a raw egg drink. Made fresh, it comes out simultaneously rich but light, thick but foamy. Commercial eggnogs have none of the foaminess of a freshly shaken drink, and on top of that, must be pasteurized, essentially turning it into a cooked crème anglaise-like custard.

That said, there were a few brands that definitely fared better than the rest.

#1. Organic Valley (6.6/10)

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This nutmeg-speckled eggnog came out on top because tasters found it rich but not overly thick or cloyingly sweet. Some thought the vanilla flavor overpowered any egginess, but most praised it for being creamy, drinkable, and lacking weird chemical-tasting flavors.

#2. Hood Golden (5.6/10)

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"Whoa, this is sweet," wrote one taster, but this brand still did well on several scoresheets. "Tastes like cake batter ice cream," commented one fan. Though some felt that Hood Golden Eggnog didn't have quite enough spice to balance it out, others praised the flavor.

#3. (Tie) Southern Comfort (4.25/10)

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"This is a little too thick," said one taster, "but it's not bad, and has a decent nutmeg flavor." A few folks said they didn't think they could drink a huge amount of this eggnog but praised the overall flavor. Many were a bit put off by the "scary orange color."

#3. (Tie) Turkey Hill (4.25/10)

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Though it's alcohol-free, this eggnog tasted boozy, as if rum was stirred into a bowl full of eggs. A heavy dose of vanilla and thick texture turned a few tasters off this brand, but some commented that it tasted like the eggnog they remembered from growing up. We tried this one later with a shot of aged rum, which definitely improved it and balanced out any almost-booze flavors with, well, real booze.

#4. Whole Foods 365 (4/10)

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Tasters found this eggnog marshmallow-sweet and eggy, and wished for a few more spices to balance it out. But, alas, it wasn't the worst option on the table.

#5. Horizon Organic (3.87/10)

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Off-flavors galore in this one, which tasters criticized for having hints of bubblegum and an unappealing sourness. "This is like a melted fake-banana milkshake, not like eggnog," wrote one taster.

#6. Trader Joe's (3.63/10)

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Tasters couldn't get over the weird fruity, perfumey flavors in this eggnog, and also criticized it for being too sugary. Unfortunately, the faux-booze flavor of this eggnog could not even be saved by the addition of real alcohol...the off flavors still stood out.

#7. Bolthouse Farms (3.6/10)

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Some tasters found this version eggy but a little gummy, and a few complained about an aftertaste and odd not-quite-cinnamon spicing. "Smells like a graham cracker, tastes like one too," wrote one taster.

#8. Silk Nog (2.7/10)

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How did the non-dairy options fare? Not great. Tasters criticized Silk's thin texture, dull flavor, and said it tasted like 'diet' eggnog. Though some liked the lighter texture, most found the nutty bitterness a little odd. Stick with a dairy-free hot toddy or mulled cider instead.

#9. So Delicious (2.4/10)

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This coconut-based non-dairy eggnog was a little rough to drink on its own. Some found the texture a little greasy, and others complained that it had a weird graininess and smelled too much like sunscreen. However, this stuff is a lot better with a shot of rum in it—landing somewhere between eggnog and a piña colada. If you've bought So Delicious this holiday season, be sure to stock up on liquor, too.

Seriously, Make It Yourself

Spare yourself (and your holiday party guests) the fake vanilla, the gummy texture, the sugar coma, and the faux-rum. Make your own eggnog at home with this easy recipe.

Holiday Eggnog »

Looking for more holiday drinks? Head right this way...

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