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An eminently versatile spirit, mezcal works itself into some of the city's most inventive cocktails. The other agave distillate of Mexico is unfairly pigeonholed as a smoke monster — in reality, its flavor transcends mere smokiness. Supple sweetness, barnyard funk, vegetal earth, metallic minerality — these are a few of the common modifiers used to describe the many mezcals competing for shelf space behind L.A. bars. Southern California, in fact, consumes more of the spirit than any other major market in the United States. Amid an ever-expanding landscape of inventive mixologists in Highland Park, La Cuevita bartender Sol Trece stands out — sometimes finding inspiration in science fiction, as in her Valley of the Dark Lords cocktail. “This one is 100 percent inspired by Star Wars,” she says. “We wanted a cocktail that, if you were looking at it through a telescope from another planet, you would see sand and living creatures.” The “sand” is provided in the form of powdered turmeric, the critters courtesy of a bar spoon of chia seeds. A grassy mezcal from Los Javis floats below, lending a gentle, floral backbone to this thoughtful Blood and Sand variation.