Throughout my early twenties, Coffee Mate creamers kept my morning routine interesting. I’d give a nod to the changing of the seasons by adding a little Pumpkin Spice creamer to my convenience store drip coffee, or spruce up a watery, disappointing mug of Keurig (the machine was a hand-me-down, okay?!) with some Chocolate Chip Cookie creamer. Then, one day in my late twenties, it all just... stopped. Like flipping a switch, the flavor of creamer became intolerable. The sweetness was too puckery. The smell was too much. The film it left behind was too pronounced. Good old-fashioned milk became the norm and creamer was banished from the household, never to return.
I still drink coffee with just a splash of milk on most days, saving sweeter caffeinated drinks like Oatmilk Honey Lattes and Baileys Coffees as an occasional weekend indulgence. But then a carton of Fireball Non-Alcoholic Cinnamon Holiday Nog came into my life. It scored solid, middle-of-the-road marks in our Taste Test. And then commenter jbrecken made this excellent suggestion:
Sticky-sweet cinnamon nog in my coffee sounded like a no-brainer. It’s not non-dairy like most creamers are; indeed, the nog’s very first ingredient is milk. That means it could, in theory, resemble my usual morning cup all the more, with an added hint of Red Hots. So I poured myself a cup.
Reader, it works. And it works better than coffee creamer ever has or ever could. The corn syrup/hydrogenated vegetable oil one-two punch in a bottle of flavored Coffee Mate cuts like a knife through a cup of coffee, to the point where each sip of joe is cleaved in two: all the candy-sweet flavors up front, all the bitter tang of coffee and sugary aftertaste coming up from behind. On some level, this is intentional, meant to mask the actual taste of the coffee itself— and that can be a blessing if you’re drinking a watery brew, but becomes annoying if you’re drinking a coffee whose flavor profile you actually enjoy. (Maybe the fact that I started investing a few more bucks in my store-bought coffee grounds is what made me fall off the creamer wagon in the first place.)
Fireball Nog, meanwhile, plays much nicer with coffee, perhaps because of the way that milk incorporates into hot liquid: the sweetness is evenly distributed across the cup, and the cinnamon flavors, so pronounced in a straight glass of the nog, are made more subtle here, reduced mostly to an aroma more than a detectable flavor. The cinnamon that you can taste here is more like a warming spice and less like a stick of Big Red. The consistency of the nog is obviously thinner in this application, too, but only slightly, and it makes the coffee feel more substantial without feeling like a Frappuccino-level indulgence.
So, thank you for the suggestion, jbrecken. I will not only be putting nog in my coffee again, I will be doing so regularly until the nog supply is depleted. It beats pouring the remaining nog down the drain—not only because food waste sucks, but because the powerful Christmasy bouquet of Fireball Non-Alcoholic Cinnamon Holiday Nog might linger in my kitchen until December.