If you know me at all then you know that I have an unholy lust for the Nog. I love nog in any shape or form and in the past I have documented my musings on Zombie Apocalypse Nog, Nog Pie, Sweet Noggy Nun Cake, Nog Shakes, My Secret Boozy Aged Nog Recipe, and perhaps my favorite nog subject -- Stewart's Eggnog.
I generally stick to a holiday season nog diet of Stewart's eggnong supplemented by my homemade aged stuff. You see, Stewart's eggnog is a sort of guilty pleasure for me. I know this eggnog ain't like homemade and that that there is all sorts of food chemistry going on with it.,, Besides the ominous sounding "EGG NOG BASE" (which I would bathe in) the Stewart's Nog has all the usual suspects -- artificial flavors, corn syrup, potassium sorbate, guar gum, carrageenan, etc... But guess what? I am head over heals in love with the toothache-y sweet concoction.
I usually only allow myself one refresher sized bottle at the beginning of nog season and then another one right around X-mas as it is 960 dairy filled calories per 16 ounce bottle. That is to say, appearances to the contrary I don't really consume that much nog (I know that you picture me as a beastly nog swilling lummox). Working another brand of nog into my rotation would be a big step. I do like to keep an open mind so I decided to give another two Upstate, NY produced nogs a whirl.
I have heard good things about both Ronnybrook Dairy's (Ancramdale, NY) and Battenkill Creamery's (Salem, NY) product. I have bought various other dairy products from both producers and have always been satisfied. Heck, the HuffPost even named the Ronnybrook stuff America's #1 nog last year... Needless to say I had pretty high hopes.
I purchased both nogs at the Slingerlands ShopRite just the other day. 32 ounces of the Ronnybrook was about 7 bucks and 16 ounces of the Battenkill was about 2 bucks. Both brands come attractively bottled in glass with purty labeling.
I didn't really check the ingredients at first, I just poured the stuff into a couple glasses as I was in a state of excited nog frenzy. I will briefly summarize my thoughts before I begin sermonizing and being a blowhard about the relative merits of all of these nogs.
The Ronnybrook Nog --
This stuff pours thick like whipping cream which got me a bit excited. Even though it is colored with Anatto-Turmeric we have a very pale nog. To the nose it has a faint and understated noggy aroma. Actually putting the stuff in your mouth is where we begin to go downhill fast...
You know how good gravy that is thickened with roux made with some nice duck fat tastes exponentially better than some thin crap made with cornstarch thickened stock? This analogy may be a stretch but the Ronnybrook sort of reminded me of the cornstarch thickened crap... This nog utilizes both guar gum and carrageenan for the purpose of thickening and "mouthfeel." So here we have an artificially thickened nog that has none of the luxurious and silky mouthfeel that comes along with copious amounts of egg yolks and butterfat from cream. I found the flavor to be very bland, almost as if it needed salt (I have found this problem in other brands as well). Also, it had a pasty Pepto-Bismol sort of aftertaste...
This is just my humble opinion but I found the Ronnybrook Eggnog to be thoroughly unenjoyable. I think the stuff tempts other less experienced nog-ologists with its apparent thickness and tends to get a bit overrated. There. I said it.
The Battenkill Nog --
I was a bit suspicious of this nog right from the pour. The liquid is very thin, almost as thin as a soy nog or some such. It had a very sweet sort of aroma and was a bit yellower (also contains Annatto-Turmeric) then the Ronnybrook.
The Battenkill was aggressively sweet (I think HFCS is the third listed ingredient with corn syrup and "sugar syrup" included later) with a defined nutmeg "noggy" (lists natural and artificial flavorings) taste. The flavor wasn't awful but the complete lack of texture and mouthfeel put me off the stuff. I didn't see any gums or carrageenan listed, so if you are concerned with the purported dangers of carrageenan this may be the way to go. I would doctor it with some additional cream and egg yolks though.
So what this brings me back to is Stewart's eggnog.
This is not to say that Stewart's eggnog is perfect, but for a mass market offering it is pretty damn good. The only truly perfect nog is a homemade nog. You need fresh cream, yellow-orange yolks, good booze, and some time. My current batch of holiday nog has been aging since Halloween and I am waiting with bated breath for a nip.
In any event, I hope this isn't too controversial... But the long and short of it is that I stick to my guns. Stewart's nog is absolutely the king of commercially available noggery in Upstate NY and I will fight anyone who says it ain't. Not really, but we will certainly discuss the issue over a mug of Stewart's nog (Stewart's light nog if you are fond of wearing skirts).