Why is eggnog sold exclusively in December? Is there only one type of "nog"? Why hasn't Weird Al Yankovic come out with a "Slog on my Nog" parody based off this (extremely NSFW) Three 6 Mafia opus?
Those are important questions, but pale in comparison to the most crucial riddle of all: Which booze pairs best with nog? Specifically, which cheap booze… because you're not exactly hitting the top shelf when you dump hooch in a store-bought glass of egg stuff. With holiday cheer and budget in mind, I grabbed a bar's worth of bottom-shelf ($15 and under) booze and a bunch of Hood Golden Eggnog (yes, that was the name of the brand) and started mixing. There were some surprises, and some stomach pains. Here's how they stacked up.
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9. Light rum
Suggested cocktail name: Jamaic-nog Me Craze-nog As most people will tell you, spiced rum is pretty much the ideal thing to put in nog. But light rum is definitely the last thing you want in there, aside from maybe turpentine. Please, please, please don't make this mistake. I know the rums seem similar, but goddamn this is bad. It's like going to see a movie because it stars Sylvester Stallone, only to find out it's actually Frank Stallone. This is the worst.
Suggested cocktail name: Christmas Kilt-Tickler Ah, cheap Scotch. It kind of reminds me of those guys who put plastic Ferrari bodies on top of their '98 Accords: Trying to make something cheap look fancy is worse than just looking cheap in the first place. With this one, you get all horrible Ray Lewis'-jockstrap-filled-with-moss flavors mixed with… actually, just that. I don't even think expensive Scotch would be good. The only pro here is you get to say you're drinking Scotch. Which isn't really a pro at all, I guess.
Suggested cocktail name: Rasputin's Ice-Cold Vod-nog This was actually not at all as bad as I thought it would be. It's not like something I'd casually sip by the fire, shirtless on a bear-skin rug -- but it's not the worst way to get festive. You get the nog flavor first, then a little aftertaste of harsh bottom-shelf Russian firewater. The aftertaste is a little brutal, but not "I'd never do this again" brutal. It tastes, I'd imagine, like Putin's neck after a salmon-fishing excursion.
6. Red wine
Suggested cocktail name: The French Confection This is another one I feared. But aside from the psychedelic mauve and beige swirl it created in my nog, this really was kind of pleasant. The alcohol only really hits you in the aftertaste, and the grapey table-wine flavor reminded me of college. It kind of tastes like grape-flavored nog. Which isn't as bad as it sounds, I promise. It's like double fisting grape soda and a vanilla milkshake. Not that I'd know what that feels like…
Suggested cocktail name: Grandpa Breath Going into this, I predicted bourbon would be the winner. I mean, it's bourbon. It goes with everything (except my company's HR employee review session). So I gleefully took a big first swig before I immediately recognized the error of my ways. It was too much. Too intense. Too abusive to my esophagus. Here's the thing, methinks: Cheap bourbon, out of everything aside from maybe cheap Scotch, is simply worse than other bottom-shelf analogues. So the cheap bourbon shines through here like a lighthouse on a foggy night. If lighthouses inspired fits of vomit, of course.
4. Cheap beer
Suggested cocktail name: Kid Rock's American Ba-Wit-Da-Nog This was so good that I drank a few more sips than I needed to. I could barely detect the light, very well-known American beer. It tasted like carbonated eggnog -- like a root beer float with a tiny, tiny hint of hops. It also cuts the thickness of the eggnog. I usually use milk for that, but this is more frothy and bubbly and way more fun.
Suggested cocktail name: Tijuanog Donkey Show I thought this was going to be bad. Like, vomit-outside-Alpha Beta Zeta-sorority-house-on-Cinco de Mayo bad. But -- like almost everything on this list -- it was weirdly delightful. Unlike the vodka, the tequila hits first, followed by a smooth wave of nogness. Be warned: The smell is very awful. Like, Alpha Beta Zeta-bathroom-the-day-after-Cinco de Mayo awful. But it blends with the nog in a weird, symmetrical fusion that just makes sense. There is no rhyme or reason to it, and it seems pretty immature. But it just works. Kind of like Carly Rae Jepsen. No, exactly like Carly Rae Jepsen.
2. Cinnamon-spiced whiskey
Suggested cocktail name: The Frat-Nog Xmas Xtravaganza ft. Hot Fire Using a low-budget Fireball, I spiked my nog like I just got out of my Chem 101 exam and needed to let loose before mom picked me up for winter break. And it's damn good. It has that fiery kick at the end that gels just perfectly with the smooth, creamy thickness of the eggnog. However, if you don't like the flavor of cinnamon-spiced whiskey in general, you won't like this. It basically accentuates the flavor while killing any semblance of alcohol taste.
1. Spiced rum
Suggested cocktail name: Eggnog If you only have one choice, make it spiced rum. This is traditionally what you'd be expected to spike your nog with, and for good reason. I bought the cheapest bottle of spiced rum possible. Yes, it's absolutely awful on its own. But together with the (also cheap-AF) nog, it creates an unholy union of Yuletide euphoria that could get you through Christmas, Kwanza, Festivus, Hanukkah, or your pagan-influenced non-denominational winter solstice celebration of choice. Its spicy vanilla taste just combines with the nog flavor in a drink that comes out greater than the sum of its parts. I drank so much of this that I got a stomachache. And yes, I'm willing to admit that, just to show you how scrumdiddlynogumptious it really was.
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Wil Fulton is a staff writer for Thrillist. He doesn't really want to drink eggnog anymore. Follow him @wilfulton.