Nonalcoholic ciders purchased around the Washington area. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

When you marry into a family, you adopt its traditions. One of the most important for my husband’s clan is Thanksgiving dinner, and one of the meal’s most long-standing, must-have staples is sparkling apple cider.

We’re an alcohol-light group, so the booze-free cider — also referred to as sparkling juice, depending on the brand — gives us a chance to pop open something festive.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous brand, and the one we quaff year after year, is Martinelli’s of California. Considering its omnipresence in stores year-round, I was a little surprised to come across seven other contenders for a taste test.

Even more unexpected: the distinct differences in flavor and color among them. Tastes ranged from sweet to dry, clear apple to kind of funky. Color-wise, they were gold, amber or even a little pink.

Scouring labels gives a little insight. Some brands use juice from concentrate. Some eschew preservatives. A few boast their provenance from France; others emphasize American apples.

Our panel of six judges did not hold back in our blind tasting, rating each sample on a scale of 1 to 5; no cider got close to a top rating of 5. Overall, most testers found the samples too sweet, though some ciders were dinged for not tasting like much of anything at all.

Here’s how they ranked, in order of preference, with exact ingredient language from the labels. Prices are what we paid at area stores; all bottles are 750 milliliters.

R.W. Knudsen Family Crisp Apple Cider

Average score: 3.33

Price: $3.29 at Shoppers

Ingredients: “Sparkling apple juice from fresh, whole apples; ascorbic acid (to maintain color)”

Comments: “A little buttery”; “decent sweet-tart balance”; “inoffensive, and in this group, that’s a compliment”; “the Honeycrisp of ciders”

Trader Joe’s Sparkling Apple Cider

Average score: 2.33

Price: $2.49 at Trader Joe’s

Ingredients: “Sparkling apple juice (from ripe, fresh, whole apples), ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)”

Comments: “On the drier side”; “ ‘juicier’ than some of the others”; “very light — in color and flavor”; “kind of syrupy”

Natural Nectar Apple Medley

Average score: 2.17

Price: $9.99 at Whole Foods

Ingredients: “Pasteurized 100% organic carbonated apple juice”

Comments: “Strangely enticing — it has these toffee, buttery notes”; “very caramely, like drinking a pie, a very bad caramel apple pie”; “sort of tastes like pears in syrup”

Martinelli’s Gold Medal Sparkling Cider

Average score: 2.17

Price: $2.99 on sale at Safeway (regular price $3.99)

Ingredients: “Pasteurized 100% pure carbonated apple juice from U.S. grown fresh apples, Vitamin C, no water or alcohol, no concentrates, no sweeteners or preservatives”

Comments: “Tastes like flat ginger ale”; “I feel like I should be drinking this from a box with a straw”; “nothing remarkable”; “relatively clean and inoffensive”

Wegmans Sparkling Juice (Apple)

Average score: 2.17

Price: $2.99 at Wegmans

Ingredients: “Canadian spring water, apple juice concentrate, natural flavor, citric acid, carbon dioxide”

Comments: “Middle of the road, like fizzy apple juice”; “if my eyes were closed, I could not identify this as sparkling cider”; “slightly tart”

Val de France Organic Sparkling Juice (Apple)

Average score: 2.17

Price $3.99 at World Market

Ingredients: “Organic apple juice from concentrate (90%), water, carbon dioxide, apple flavor, citric acid”

Comments: “A bit flat in flavor”; “tart and crisp, less syrupy than the others”; “smells like socks, slightly worn”; “harsh, almost chemical aftertaste”

Safeway Select Sparkling Apple Cider

Average score: 2

Price: $2.99 at Safeway

Ingredients: “Water, apple juice from concentrate, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)”

Comments: “Pretty darn sweet”; “very viscous”; “smells like browned apples”; “some weird dough note”; “odd aftertaste”

Alpenglow Sparkling Cider

Average score: 1.33

Price: $3.99 at Corn Maze in The Plains

Ingredients: “Pasteurized 100% pure carbonated apple juice from U.S. grown fresh apples, no water or alcohol, no concentrates, no sweeteners or preservatives, no caffeine”

Comments: “Bad, just bad”; “just meh”; “artificial sugar taste”; “tastes like mushy apples picked up off the ground in an orchard”; “so sugary sweet”