Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bitten: The Nog-Off

Posted by Jennifer

‘Tis the season to drink eggnog.  But which one?  We sipped our way through national brands, a house brand, artisanal, and egg/milk-free varieties. Reading the ingredient list is a sobering exercise: most have at least two types of  sugar; additives abound - carrageenan, guar gum, locust bean gum - all in the name of a
creamy texture. The quantity of sugar and the perception of sweetness were not always related.

The Nationals

Neilsen:  The opinions on probably the most readily available eggnog varied widely. Though it has a very eggy yellow colour, the texture is thin. Indeed, the first ingredient listed is water. Some of us thought it had an overwhelming artificial rum flavour. One thought this was perfectly balanced and the one she would take to a party, since it would not need a last minute dusting of nutmeg or extra alcohol.  For another, this was the taste of Christmas being her family’s preferred brand. $2.69/litre

Sealtest:  This one is very custardy in both texture and colour. Some found it too sweet, forcing one of us to admit that she would not be able to drink a whole carton! There was no chemical taste but might need some doctoring with nutmeg and alcohol. $3.29/litre

Beatrice:  Rich yellow in colour, Beatrice’s eggnog is not quite as sweet as the Sealtest nog while offering sufficient flavouring and great “mouth feel”. While tasters commented on the sweetness of the Sealtest eggnog, this one did not register as particularly sweet, despite its 34mg of sugar! We had to search a little harder for this one but it was worth it. Definitely one to take to a party. $2.79/litre

House Brands
We tried two President’s Choice eggnogs, one in a plastic bottle, the other in a carton.

The bottled product, ultra pasteurized, does not require refrigeration until just before serving, a plus at this time of year when storage space is at a premium.  The first sip had an off-taste, but that disappeared quickly. This is one of the few nogs listing both cream and rum as ingredients. As expected when there is cream
present, the texture is very seductive, but the flavour is innocuous. $3.00/litre

The carton version is not quite as creamy, but tastes better than its bottled cousin. It claims there are no artificial flavours or colours. $1.99/litre

Premium milk brand also offer premium eggnogs.

Harmony:  Harmony’s version is, like its milk, sold in returnable glass bottles. Everything about it is lovely, especially its creaminess, both visually and on the palate. It is not too sweet. Some tasters thought it needed more flavour while others thought the balance of texture and taste perfect. This product has no ingredient list. $6.99/litre plus deposit at Whole Foods

Organic Meadow:  This eggnog is sold in a carton. Who knew you could have organic additives? The milk and eggs here are also organic. Unless you really care about buying organic products, the difference in taste is
not worth double the price. It also seems quite sweet, although lower in sugar than the Beatrice version, and slightly less luxurious on the tongue. $5.99/litre at Whole Foods

The Vegan Alternative

So Nice Noel Nog:  All we can say to vegans or those with health issues, who want to keep the Christmas eggnog tradition:  move past it.  There are no redeeming features to this drink. Well, it is high in calcium, but its watery texture and lingering, unpleasant taste is no treat for the mouth. Do not go there. $2.99/litre

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