If you grew up with Hershey’s and want to take the chocolate up a notch, go for American Maid’s.
American Maid has a consistency that’s runny but not too watery. It delivers the classic cocoa-y chocolate syrup flavor and pulls it off with great balance, coming at a mid-level of sweet, and carrying a decent, well-bloomed cocoa flavor (of the natural cocoa sort) that ends with a mild bitter bite. There’s just a hint of acidity and the slight tannic feel of cocoa toward the end, but not too much that it overpowers. Stirred into milk, it makes for a not-too-sweet, cocoa-heavy mix.
With its smooth, glossy appearance, we’ll admit Clara Ole’s does look the nicest on camera.
Clara Ole’s version has a prominently shinier appearance and a runnier, more syrupy consistency (with less pronounced tannin) that cascades beautifully as you squeeze it out of the bottle. It’s on just the right level of sweet and is just bitter enough to tease, but it has a more rounded-tasting quality that gives the illusion of a milkier, creamier syrup (despite there not being any actual dairy in the ingredient list). There’s a touch of saltiness that helps bring the chocolate out, but it also ends with more sourness than American Maid.
Goya’s is a surprisingly dark-tasting contender with a suave chocolatey punch.
Goya’s syrup is notably thicker than the others, with a stronger chalky mouthfeel—but it’s still runny enough that you won’t have trouble having it flow through. You get a good, deep hit of cocoa that’s dark, smooth, and dusky, carrying a richer, fuller sensation compared to the others in the list—and barely any acidity. (Given these qualities, we suspect the use of cocoa powder with a higher fat content or of the Dutch-process sort*.) We’d happily lap up spoonfuls of this even plain, but we’ve gotta note how it turns even the lowest-fat of milks into thick, dark-tasting, decadent beverages. And with its potent chocolatey punch, even a little goes a long way.
*Note, though, that the ingredient list at the back only lists “cocoa” (which typically refers to natural cocoa)
Hershey’s is about as textbook- chocolate syrup as chocolate syrup can get.
Google “chocolate syrup” and the first brand that shows up in the results is Hershey’s (which is not surprising, considering they are a chocolate company). Decidedly runny (even a tad watery) in consistency (with a hint of tannin), it’s easy to pour and dissolve in milk. Taken straight up, it’s plenty sugary and (natural) cocoa-y in a manner that’s similar to American Maid’s. But it’s a touch less bitter than American Maid’s; in its place is a more prominent acidity, which—combined with the overarching sweetness—makes it easy to get sick of this syrup quickly. Still, it’s in a league of its own when stirred into cold milk (which does wonders to tame the sourness), making for a most classic-tasting chocolate milk our adult selves will never tire of.
Home Brand’s tastes more like latik than it does chocolate syrup. (We dig it, though.)
Home Brand’s version is similar to Hershey’s in runniness but carries a slightly less tannic feel on the tongue. It’s sweeter than it is chocolatey, barely displaying any cocoa-y depth. But you do get a slight burnt-sugar note toward the end—and along with the (borderline-painful) acidic finish, its overall profile oddly reminds us of Filipino coco jam. It’s not unpleasant; it just doesn’t register as a chocolate syrup (though with its coconut-y character, the author confesses to enjoying it on plain suman).
Stirred into milk, the resulting beverage tastes remarkably similar to the milk remaining at the bottom of the bowl after eating Koko Krunch cereal.
Like Hershey’s, Nesquik is also on the watery side, but has a smoother, more velvety feel on the tongue. Marketed toward kids, it’s unabashedly sweet. Though it might not seem to taste much of chocolate at the onset given all the sugar, it is present—but it’s a different sort of chocolatey, one that’s less harsh and acidic yet more smooth and more “rounded” (somewhat like Goya’s but not nearly as dark, and likely coming from the use of Dutch-process cocoa—as confirmed in the ingredient list). There’s barely any sourness or saltiness; as a result (especially with given the latter), the chocolate doesn’t stand out as much when drizzled on neutral-tasting canvases (e.g. vanilla ice cream or plain pancakes) but it makes for a pleasant, soothing flavor especially when stirred into milk. (The author swears the resulting beverage tastes almost exactly like the remaining milk at the bottom of the bowl from eating a bowl of Koko Krunch.)
The Verdict: Goya
Hershey’s may be most nostalgic, but Goya earns the top spot with its fuller, darker chocolate flavor and thicker consistency. By itself or on any canvas, it delivers a great cocoa-y punch that enlivens even the simplest of desserts. Coming close is American Maid, which is sweeter but still offers a great, balanced take on the classic chocolate syrup profile. And for those whose inner kid selves forever remain—or those looking to make a classic, boxed-tasting chocolate milk—Hershey’s and Nesquik are your best bets.