A Taste Off of Eggnog
Sit back for a minute, close your eyes, and imagine yourself sitting in front a warm crackling fire with family, or completely alone-whatever makes you happy, whilst gazing at the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree and sipping a moose-head glass of traditional eggnog. Perhaps it’s not too far off in the future for an eggnog lover like myself. Or maybe you love the ‘nog, but you’re looking for something a little stronger as we approach year 2 of this pandemic. Call it egg nog, holiday nog, the nog, or egg milk (as my 4 year old termed it), you’re about to get a crash course in its origins and a detailed judging as we perform our first ever eggnog taste off!
Although the origins of eggnog are fuzzy at best, it is generally accepted that the holiday beverage likely draws its roots back to medieval England. During this period in England, a popular beverage of the time was known as “posset”. Posset was a beverage sold warm, consisting of milk, wine or ale, and various spices. Posset would eventually evolve into a cold dessert made of cream, sugar, citrus, and sherry or wine. The dessert, similar to pudding, can be served either warm or chilled.
It was in the 1700’s, colonial America, that eggnog would become a popular holiday drink enjoyed by many, including our Founding Fathers. In fact, President George Washington was generous in leaving his own alcohol dominant eggnog recipe written down for future generations to enjoy. As time has passed, and people’s fear of uncooked foods have grown, many store-bought variations (alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike) have flooded our stores, like clockwork, every November and December right after Halloween. As we approach the holiday season, Rickhouse Ramblings felt it would be fun to taste a variety of these traditional premixed alcoholic eggnog varieties and provide our thoughts for our faithful readers! So settle on in with your favorite eggnog and enjoy this tasting journey.
Joining us today is our good friend, faithful mechanic, Notre Dame super fan, and fellow eggnog enthusiast, Mr. Brett Ryan (or as Mike and I know him, Torque). Just to set the mood right, a traditional mix of Christmas music is playing in the background – sounds of Neil Diamond, Bing Crosby, Chuck Berry, and many more. Dashing through the snow, here we go…
This taste off will include a field of six alcoholic eggnog mixtures purchased from Total Wine & More, Pavilion ABC Store, and Costco in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. All selections are widely available across the United States, regardless of market. As with most eggnog, our samples will be enjoyed chilled. Here are the six contenders selected:
- Winterhaven Farms Homestyle Eggnog – This eggnog is made and bottled by Meadow Brook Distillers, Co. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Bottled at 14.75% Alcohol by Volume (29.5 Proof), this eggnog combines a “fine selection” of rum, brandy, and American blended whiskey along with real dairy cream to create an eggnog “crammed full of goodness”. Purchase Price at Total Wine & More: $8.99 for a 750 ml bottle.
- Kirkland Signature Traditional Holiday Eggnog Liqueur – This eggnog is produced and bottled by Fairmont LTD. of Mira Loma, California. Bottled at 14.75% Alcohol by Volume (29.5 Proof), this eggnog combines “real dairy cream” with whiskey, spiced rum, brandy, and French vanilla. Purchase Price at Costco: $9.99 for a 1.75 L bottle
- The Christian Brothers Holiday Nog – This holiday nog is produced and bottled by CB Vineyards of Bardstown, Kentucky. Bottled at 10% Alcohol by Volume (20 Proof), this eggnog uses the “finest brandy,” natural eggnog flavor, and added colors FD & C yellow #5 in production. Purchase Price at Total Wine & More: $9.99 for a 750 ml bottle.
- Mr. Boston Creamy Eggnog – This eggnog is produced by Mr. Boston Distiller of Owensboro, Kentucky. Bottled at 15% Alcohol by Volume (30 proof), this eggnog uses blended whiskey and a 50 year old recipe to create this classic holiday tradition. Purchase Price at the Pavilion ABC Store: $8.99 for a 750 ml bottle.
- Evan Williams Original Southern Eggnog – This eggnog is prepared and bottled by Old Evan Williams Distillery of Bardstown, Kentucky. Bottled at 15% Alcohol by Volume (30 proof), this eggnog is made with Evan Williams Straight Bourbon Whiskey, blended whiskey, rum, and brandy. The eggnog is finished with holiday spices in the southern tradition. Purchase price at Total Wine & More: $9.99 for a 750 ml bottle.
- Two Stars Eggnog – This eggnog is bottled by The Clear Springs Distilling Co. of Louisville, Kentucky. Bottled at 12.5% Alcohol by Volume (25 proof), this eggnog is made with brandy, rum, and bourbon whiskey. Purchase Price at Total Wine & More: $9.99 for a 750 ml bottle.
Round 1 Tasting Results – Narrowing the Field of Six Down to Two
Christian: Eggnog #1 had a dark sandy complexion and was the darkest of the eggnog sampled. This offering had an aroma that was yeasty and reminded me of sticky buns, honey, and vanilla. The mouthfeel was velvety in nature. On the palate, I get a rush of shortbread cookies with just a small punch of alcohol. A hint of citrus is present. Not super sweet or rich. Christian’s Ranking: #6 out of 6
Michael: This eggnog is very traditional to me. The nose is quickly consumed by the aroma of bread yeast. I find this eggnog to be medium bodied and balanced on the tongue. Traditional eggnog flavors and spice hit first, and are followed by a touch of alcohol and citrus oils. Michael’s Ranking: #1 out of 6
Brett: This eggnog hits first with the aroma of alcohol and quickly turns sweet. The drink is lightly creamy and offers the traditional eggnog flavors I look for when enjoying the nog. I find this sample has a strange orange tint in my glass.
Brett’s Ranking: #2 out of 6
Average Ranking: 3rd out of 6
Christian: Eggnog #2 was off-white in appearance. The aroma of this eggnog was a very mild custard, light egg, and a dash of lemon cookie with powdered sugar. This one is very soft and delicate on the tongue. Vanilla icing, Christmas sugar cookies, and a touch of baking spice provide a traditional eggnog tasting experience. Very light alcohol influence is present. Christian’s Ranking: #1 out of 6
Michael: This eggnog reminds me a lot of French vanilla coffee creamer. As I take additional sips, I notice hints of French vanilla icing on sugar cookies. The eggnog is medium bodied. A very light hint of licorice is detected on the back-end. Michael’s Ranking: #2 out of 6
Brett: This eggnog is easy on the nose with no sign of alcohol present. On my palate, this one is a little thinner than I like. I am really getting a sugar cookie vibe in the flavor profile, but to me, this one is missing the traditional eggnog flavors I am looking to enjoy. Brett’s Ranking: #3 out of 6
Average Ranking: 1st out of 6
Christian: Eggnog #3 has a little bit of a yellow tint to it. This one has the aromas of buttery yeast rolls and a touch of whipped cream and sugar. I found this eggnog to be a bit thin on the palate. The bitterness of the alcohol is dominant in the taste profile. There is a touch of spices present, but it almost comes off as artificial. I also get hints of lemon shortbread cookie and sugary sweet cream. Christian’s Ranking: #5 out of 6
Michael: The third eggnog smells of light buttermilk and biscuit dough on the nose. This one has a thinner mouthfeel. I quickly notice a soft peppermint flavor that is followed by traditional eggnog spice in the back-end. Michael’s Ranking: #5 out of 6
Brett: I quickly notice the aroma of baked butter bread on the nose of this eggnog. The drink comes off a bit thin and has a bit too much alcohol that lingers on my palate. Overall, this eggnog deviates from a traditional flavor profile one would expect. Brett’s Ranking: #4 out of 6
Average Ranking: 5th out of 6
Christian: Ok – this eggnog is rather different from the rest. The nose is very sweet with a touch of fruitiness and cinnamon baking spice. I am reminded of Juicy Fruit chewing gum–a little artificial smelling to me. This eggnog is silky smooth on the palate with hardly any alcohol flavor present. This eggnog is richer than the others with a splash of clove spice, vanilla, and cocoa powder bitterness. I get an almost chalky texture on the back-end. Christian’s Ranking: #3 out of 6
Michael: On the nose I am getting bananas and bubble gum, very non-traditional. This eggnog is medium bodied with just a touch of alcohol in the taste profile. Mocha and hazelnut flavors are dominant. A slight chalkiness is present. Michael’s Ranking: #3 out of 6
Brett: This eggnog is unbelievably aromatic, albeit bordering artificial, with hints of banana and bubble gum standing out strong. Thick in consistency and traditional in the flavor profiles that I am looking for in my eggnog. A decent amount of alcohol is present here, but artificial aromas are gone once the eggnog hits your palate. Brett’s Ranking: #1 out of 6
Average Ranking: 2nd out of 6
Christian: This eggnog has an off-white appearance with little yellow floaties. This is a huge turnoff to me from a textural standpoint. However, I love the nose–cinnamon rolls, sugary icing, and just an overall sweet, gooey smell. Flavor wise, if you can see past the texture, you get loads of baking spices in cinnamon, clove, and just a touch of accompanying yeast rolls. This reminds me of residual milk left behind after a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I love the flavor, but damn that texture just kills it for me. I would give it dead last on mouth feel alone, but I’m rating it high for taste alone. Christian’s Ranking: #2 out of 6 (Assuming that the separation we experienced in the bottle is the exception and not the norm.)
Michael: This eggnog is reminiscent of buttermilk biscuit dough and a touch of gingerbread. I get a strong peppermint flavor on the palate, of which I am not overly fond. Baking spices are dominant with just a touch of yeast in the back-end. Michael’s Ranking: #6 out of 6
Brett: This eggnog has a strong gingerbread aroma that jumps from the glass. This is accompanied by a lemon aroma that stands out to me. The eggnog is thicker than most and coats the mouth generously but, it is chunky…I absolutely cannot get past that. Brett’s Ranking: #5 out of 6
Average Ranking: 6th out of 6
Christian: The final eggnog of the day is so much different than anything else we have tried. On the nose, this eggnog is butterscotch forward. It reminds me of Werther’s Original hard candies. It comes off as being less whiskey forward, perhaps more rum influenced. The mouthfeel is very thin and watery. This is in no way traditional, but man does it pack a punch of flavor! Butterscotch, a hint of maple syrup, and vanilla extract provide a sweet and tasty experience. Christian’s Ranking: #4 out of 6
Michael: This eggnog is a butterscotch bomb with a hint of alcohol on the nose. A very thin mouthfeel gives way to a coffee creamer consistency. I get a punch of butterscotch flavor that quickly recedes and gives way to a sugar sweet aftertaste. Michael’s Ranking: #4 out of 6
Brett: I find this one to have a very strong butterscotch nose with little to no indication of alcohol present. The eggnog is very thin, milky, and super sweet but not overly flavorful. This eggnog is very non-traditional, unconventional, and just not up my alley. Brett’s Ranking: #6 out of 6
Average Ranking: 4th out of 6
Final Round – Eggnog #2 vs #4 Head-to-Head
Christian: To me, this eggnog provides a rich and enjoyable drinking experience. I really love the sugar cookie, icing, and nutmeg flavors along with the touch of lemon citrus and smooth velvety mouth feel. A sweet holiday beverage. Christian’s Rating: 1st Place
Michael: In my opinion, Eggnog #2 provides a decadent blend of vanilla custard and freshly baked sugar cookies. A rich and enjoyable eggnog experience that provides me with everything I want to find in the holiday beverage. Michael’s Rating: 1st Place
Brett: Eggnog #2 has a traditional color, just the right amount of alcohol, and a enjoyable sugar cookie vibe that is enjoyable and tasty. It just doesn’t offer as much of a traditional eggnog flavor experience that I’ve grown so accustomed to with my eggnog. Brett’s Rating: A solid option, but not my winner.
Christian: Eggnog #4 is a solid option for any holiday party. The flavor profile, although a bit artificial, offers a nice blend of butterscotch, vanilla and light baking spice. The slight bitterness of coco powder and cinnamon is what just causes this one to step back a bit for me. Christian’s Rating: It’s close, but 2nd place.
Michael: Eggnog #4 offers an unexpected nose, non-traditional flavor profile, and a slightly more alcohol forward experience than its competitor. During this second taste test, I am still picking up just a hint of peppermint, which for me is a turn off. Eggnog #4 is a quality option, it just didn’t edge out #2. Michael’s Rating: 2nd Place
Brett: For me, Eggnog #4 really is the option that reminds me most of the eggnog I mix on my own for the holidays. Although it is just a bit more alcohol forward, I really enjoy the traditional nose and quality mouth feel and taste profile. Although I enjoy eggnog #2, if I have to choose, and I do, I would take this one first. Brett’s Rating: 1st Place
Rickhouse Ramblings 2021 Eggnog Taste Off Champion
Eggnog #2: Winterhaven Farms Homestyle Eggnog
Who was Who?
- Eggnog #1: Mr. Boston Creamy Eggnog – 3rd Place
- Eggnog #2: Winterhaven Farms Homestyle Eggnog – Champion
- Eggnog #3: Evan Williams Original Southern Eggnog – 5th Place
- Eggnog #4: Kirklands Signature Traditional Holiday Eggnog – 2nd Place
- Eggnog #5: Two Stars Eggnog – 6th Place
- Eggnog #6: Christian Brother Holiday Nog – 4th Place