There are few holiday sips more iconic than creamy eggnog, dusted with nutmeg.

This classic frothy blend of eggs and milk -- or cream -- begs for a dash of spirits. But it's also great splashed into cocoa, blended with coffee or used to flavor truffles or cheesecake, French toast or cookies.

Nothing beats fresh whipped nog, of course, but those who are short on time and kitchen know-how can get their eggnog fix by picking up a carton at the market. Options abound at this time of year, but beware. No two pre-made eggnogs taste the same -- and some are downright nasty.

The best eggnogs are velvety and rich, with a fresh milk flavor and an earthy dash of spice. The worst yield a viscous, artificial-tasting gulp so distasteful, it's best left in the carton.

The ingredient list and nutrition facts provide a big hint about flavor and quality. Generally speaking, fewer ingredients, less sugar and more fat result in a superior nog, but we included some low-fat and light versions in this tasting in an effort to uncover a lower fat holiday sip. After reading the critiques, you may decide that it's better to simply drink less of the real thing than opt for the ersatz.

Here's the scoop on the best -- and the undrinkable.

Organic Valley Eggnog

As close to homemade as you can get in a carton, this eggnog is thick, rich, sweet and has just the right dose of vanilla and spice to bring it home. A -cup serving has 180 calories, 10 grams fat, 17 grams sugar. A quart is $4.99 at Raley's. (4 stars)

Straus Creamery Organic Eggnog

This understated eggnog pours like fresh milk and is minimally sweet, with just a touch of nutmeg. This slightly untraditional nog is a different kind of delicious. A -cup serving has 160 calories, 5 grams fat, 13 grams sugar. A quart is $6.49 plus $1.50 bottle deposit at Whole Foods. (4 stars)

New Orleans Original Southern Comfort Vanilla Spice Flavored Eggnog

A big hit of vanilla, lots of spices and super velvety texture make for a decadent and delicious drink for those who don't mind super-sweet drinks. Cut the sugar content and it would be a perfect eggnog. A -cup serving has 220 calories, 9 grams fat, 23 grams sugar. A quart is $2.78 at Food Maxx. (3 stars)

Califia Farms Pure Almondmilk Holiday Nog

This minimally spiced milk is a fine alternative for those who can't have dairy, but it is watery and thin, because it contains neither milk nor eggs. A -cup serving has 50 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 8 grams sugar. A 48-ounce bottle is $3.99 at Whole Foods. (2 stars)

Bolthouse Farms Limited Edition Holiday Nog

Strangely thick and overly eggy, this low-calorie eggnog made with nonfat milk has a lot of flavor, but it lacks any hint of milk or cream. A -cup serving has 80 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 12 grams sugar. A 52-ounce bottle is $5.79 at Food Maxx. (2 stars)

Berkeley Farms Light Egg Nog

The overpowering flavor of artificial rum, way too much sugar and not enough spice make this a poor pick. A -cup serving has 130 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 20 grams sugar. A quart is $1.69 at Walmart. (1 stars)

Clover Stornetta Light Egg Nog

A strange banana flavor and overwhelming sugar content make it impossible to taste the milk or egg. A -cup serving has 160 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 22 grams sugar. A quart is $3.99 at Whole Foods. (1 star)

Horizon Organic Lowfat Eggnog

Gritty consistency and way too much flavoring extract kill what might have been a decent eggnog. A -cup serving has 140 calories, 3 grams fat, 22 grams sugar. A quart is $4.99 at Raley's. ( a star)

Lucerne Light Eggnog

There is just nothing right about this minty, candy-like, flavored eggnog. A -cup serving has 120 calories, 2 grams fat, 20 grams sugar. A quart is $2.99 at Safeway. (No stars)

Sunnyside Low Fat Egg Nog Premium

Do not even put this in your shopping cart. It's overly sweet with a slimy consistency and a medicinal flavor thanks to artificial flavorings and pineapple juice concentrate. A -cup serving has 130 calories, 2 grams fat, 21 grams sugar. A quart is $1.69 at Food Maxx. (No stars)

Reviews are based on product samples purchased by this newspaper or provided by manufacturers. Contact Jolene Thym at