So, Is Rice-Milk Eggnog Good or What?

Rice Dream Rice Nog

Rice Dream Rice Nog

I Paid: $2 for 1 quart (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 3 stars

Marketing: 1 stars

Much of the action in mass-market foods these days is taking place in the "better for you indulgent whatever" realm: the trans-fat-free snack mix, the lower-calorie margarita, and, now, the dairy-free, vegan, rice-based incarnation of eggnog. At first glance, if there's ever been a beverage that could use slimming down, and healthing up, it's eggnog. Except, no, wait—the entire point of eggnog is that you enjoy it once a year, revel in its sweet, fatty goodness, burn out on it, then forget about it until the Earth again travels around the sun.

On that front: Rice Dream's Rice Nog holiday beverage should not be called Rice Nog, but rather Slightly Thicker Rice Milk with a Bit of Cinnamon Flavor Beverage.

More like horchata than a proper nog, this rice/water/cane juice–based beverage is explicitly pitched as a "thick, rich" holiday treat, a claim that is utter and total poppycock. Rice Nog is a pale pinkish-tan liquid with no more thickness or richness than 1 percent milk. That said, it's a reasonably refreshing and tasty beverage unto itself, and is refreshingly light compared to most of the garbage we typically gorge ourselves on this time of year. Moreover, it's got fewer than half the calories of the real deal: 80 per half cup versus 180 for most traditional stuff, and 1 gram of fat versus the more traditional 10 (and zero cholesterol versus 90 milligrams, to boot).

It's hard not to find the marketing of this nonnog nog obnoxious—if you know and enjoy real eggnog, and you want this to taste like real eggnog, get ready to be pissed off in a hurry. But if you're open-minded and just searching for a healthier, nondairy homage to eggnog, this stuff could totally fill the bill.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.