Nemi makes a fantastic margarita, which is what you’d expect from this bright new Mexican restaurant with an ambitious bar. The use of fresh fruit-squeezed juices, variations with mezcal, herbal infusions, raw sugar syrup, and a deftly balanced touch made its multiple riffs on the theme, from the roasted pineapple and Mezclalita to the Frida La Classica, among the most refreshing I’ve sipped this year. But co-owner Alejandro Fuentes mixes up several other options here that prove agave spirits can easily anchor a much wider range of cocktails.
Enter the Mexican old-fashioned, which swaps out the usual whiskey for Hornitos Añejo tequila. The Hornitos isn’t quite from the top shelf of Nemi’s collection of 30 tequilas. But it’s a solid, sensible choice for mixing, and it lends the drink a softer, smoother, more vanilla-caramel taste, thanks to its barrel time, almost brandy-esque compared to the boozy elbows that bourbon usually provides. It’s a shade lighter on the palate, too, which makes it an easy warm-weather sipper for devotees of brown spirits. But that’s also what gives this twist on a classic its own distinctive personality, one reinforced by agave syrup for measured sweetness and a few drops of ancho chili liqueur to give the familiar notes of Angostura bitters and an orange twist a subtle Mexi-kick. — Craig LaBan