Last year, I subjected the Serious Eats team to a doozy of a taste test, sipping 10 different commercially available eggnogs. But they were all the standard flavor, more or less, and there's more to eggnog than just the classic. If you're feeling ambitious, I highly recommend you check out Kenji's roundup of delicious eggnog variations—a dozen different recipes, including gingersnap, maple bourbon, nutella eggnog, lemon-buttermilk eggnog, and more.
But if you're not going the from-scratch route, you might be wondering if any of the fun flavors of grocery store eggnog are worth buying. So we tasted every variety from Hood (which won second place in our taste test last year.) Here's what we thought.
Hood Golden Eggnog
This sweet classic flavor won second place in our taste test last year. It reminded some tasters of cake batter: rich, nutmeggy, and eggy. You can definitely do much, much worse than this grocery-store standard; we'd happily drink this, especially with a sprinkle of ginger or cinnamon on top.
Verdict: Not as good as homemade, but still fine to serve to friends.
With the basic flavor under our belts, we moved onto the flavors we hadn't tried before.
Hood Light Eggnog
The light version has 140 calories per four-ounce serving instead of the Golden's 180. It also has 4 grams of fat instead of 9. The scent's the same: super nutmeggy, and the flavor is nearly indistinguishable, maybe a teeny bit less eggy and rich. Some tasters noticed a slightly odd aftertaste, though.
Verdict: Not as good as the Golden—is eggnog really where you want to save calories?
Hood Caramel Eggnog
Hood introduced a new caramel flavor this year. It smells just like Werther's caramels to us, which isn't a bad thing at all, but you have to be ready for some serious sweetness if you're going to drink this. It's pretty much like melted dulce de leche ice cream, and there isn't any spice flavor to balance out the rich, gooey caramel. Still, there's nothing bad about it; we just couldn't gulp a very big serving.
Verdict: Only for those with a serious sweet tooth.
Hood Sugar Cookie Eggnog
If the scent of sugar cookies baking gets you in the holiday spirit, you should grab a whiff of this eggnog, which somehow packs the complete cookie-baking experience into a smell. The flavor is buttery, sugary, and eggy—tasty and festive, until we thought a little bit harder about how weird it feels to be drinking cookie batter.
Verdict: Fun for a cookie-baking party, as long as you're adventurous.
Hood Cinnamon Eggnog
Our initial complaint about the classic Hood Golden was a lack of diversity in spicing, so we thought the cinnamon would be the eggnog of our dreams. But the cinnamon is subtle here—perhaps they were afraid of it dominating the flavor—and we could have used even more. In the end, this seems to be nutmeg eggnog as much as it is cinnamon.
Verdict: Not as good as we'd hoped.
Hood Pumpkin Eggnog
Hood's Pumpkin Eggnog is a scary, nearly fluorescent orange color. The scent, though, is spot-on, exactly evoking the pumpkin pie we grew up with. And the flavor's pretty good too, rich, nicely spiced, and pumpkiny enough for squash lovers. If they'd tone down the color, we'd be happy to serve this at a holiday party.
Verdict: Kind of awesome, as long as you serve it in an opaque vessel.
Hood Vanilla Eggnog
This one just wasn't for us. It sacrificed some of the egg flavor for decent creamy flavor, but it's really like drinking melted vanilla ice cream—with a bit of melted vanilla scented candle in there, too.
Verdict: Skip it.
Have you tried the flavored eggnog from Hood? Do you have other favorite brands of flavored eggnog? Or do you just doctor it up and add flavors yourself?