date published: June 6, 2005

We’ve all seen what a few too many cocktails can do to a person, but imagine if imbibing could actually improve your IQ? Boston bars across town now host trivia nights similar to those made popular in pubs throughout the UK. But leave it to Allston’s Common Ground Bar & Grill (85 Harvard Ave., Allston, 617-783-2071) to come up with Simpsons Trivia Night. Tuesdays at 7 p.m., you can finally put to use the knowledge you acquired during those nights in college when you opted to watch Homer over reading Homer. For those of you who actually did your homework, general knowledge trivia with questions ranging from history to horticulture takes place on Monday nights.

Brainiacs will also want to check out The Midway Café’s (3496 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-9038) Nerd Nite. Chris Balakrishnan, a Harvard post-doctoral fellow, started the night as “a forum for scientists to talk about their research in a more fun format than normal lectures.” For most of us, a room full of scientists hardly equals a party, but, as original member Heidi Fisher explains, “By scientist, I don’t mean the pocket-protector, socially inept type. Rather, we’re a group of young intellectuals that feel as at home in a bar as in a lab.” Presenter Amy Mertl puts it best: “It’s a time to show the fun side of your work to a rowdy, drunk, fun-loving crowd who will heckle you endlessly, but are also genuinely interested in what you do.”

Bar music can be either good or bad, but rarely inspired. The Common Ground has a solution to this predicament every Wednesday at 8 p.m. when patrons get to play deejay, or rather MP3J. Participating deejays play 15 minute-long playlists from their own digital music players. Depending on the night, as many as 15 different patrons participate, offering a broad range of tunes. Sarah Korval, one of the night’s hosts, describes the ambiance as casual compared to other cities where “it can be competitive or even nerve-wracking. [Here], it’s similar to a regular night at a bar with the patrons controlling the jukebox. Only, in this case, the jukebox is a collection of their own music.” Though “bad music” is a possibility, Korval says this hasn’t been the case. “Those that are drawn to MP3J nights take pride in what they will present, so overall, it usually flows pretty well.”

To further satisfy your inner rock star, The Milky Way Lounge and Lanes (405 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-3740) has taken karaoke to the next level with its new Live Band Karaoke nights on alternate Tuesdays. As Carol Downs, owner of The Milky Way, points out, “You won’t find another karaoke night like this anywhere in the city.” Backed by the Nickel and Dime Band, you can test your vocal might on more than 100 songs, and even add in a little David Lee Roth leap, if you’re able.

Ladies’ Night
Ladies need nights all their own, where there’s no chance of being hassled by the male species. Downtown Crossing’s Opal Lounge (48 Winter St., 617-482-6725) has come up with just the thing—on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5 to 9 p.m., you can partake in its Martinis and Manicures night and on Thursdays (same time), its Psychic Libations night. The point is for hard-working ladies to treat themselves to martinis paired with a $7 manicure or a $15 tarot card reading. Ladies, your job is to get there early and leave with a better sense of your future, or at least some awesome nails. We expect you’ll find both extremely satisfying. Opal Lounge provides the setting and the drinks (their $5 signature Opaltini is unbeatable), while Galaxy Nails and The Original Tremont Tea Room psychics do the rest.

Cocktails and Culture
The Museum of Fine Arts is world famous for its art collection, but did you know it also offers cocktails and performance? The MFA First Fridays kick off each month with art, cocktails, tapas and music. And with the advent of summer, the MFA takes audiences outdoors with its Concerts in the Courtyard Series, where music connoisseurs can sample an array of genres every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. This year’s repertoire boasts 11 artists, including performers of zydeco and Punjabi Indian songs, and some MFA favorites such as flamenco guitarist Juanito Pascual and singer Patty Larkin return. German electronica group Mouse on Mars is the opener for the 2005 series on June 15, with two concerts at 6 and 8:30 p.m.

Rat Pack it
Modern day bar scenes aren’t for everyone—some prefer a dark lounge with some jazzy tunes and deep, sensual singing voices in the background. If this sounds more like your scene, Sinatra Sundays at South Boston’s Lucky’s Lounge (355 Congress St., 617-357-5825) will hit the right note. The days of “Ole Blue Eyes” are back with the Al Vega Trio, featuring Mark Mahar and special guest vocalist Alex MacDougall. Unlike most retro bar nights, Lucky’s has an original lounge master in pianist Al Vega. After eight decades (he’ll be 84 June 22 and started jamming when he was a mere 5 years old), he’s more impressive than ever thanks to the practice of accompanying favorites like Billie Holiday and Miles Davis. Lucky for us, this native of nearby Chelsea never left his home state.

No irish need apply
Not many places can boast having the only mechanical bull in Boston, but The Liquor Store (25 Boylston Place [The Alley], 617-357-6800) sure can. If you never got to fulfill those cowboy or -girl dreams, now you can. It might sound a bit racy at first, but after a few of the popular sparkler drinks, perhaps not. And with this city’s penchant for Irish pubs, you can be sure there are few other places in which to enjoy a little Southern flair. If public bull riding is too risqué for your tastes, perhaps smoking fresh fruity tobacco from Tangierino’s (83 Main St., Charlestown, 617-242-6009) hookahs is more to your liking. As a bonus, you’re bypassing the Hub’s indoor smoking ban. Non-smokers need not feel left out as they can sip cocktails while watching belly dancers perform Thursday–Sunday from 7:30–11 p.m.

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by Marketa Hulpachova 
Boston Tea Party Ale
Boston Beer Works, 61 Brookline Ave., 617-536-1337. Brewed with tea, served over ice and with a straw, this lemon-tinged patriotic summer ale is an ideal way to cool off while paying tribute to those feisty 1773 rebels.
Saigon Sling
Pho Republique, 1415 Washington St., 617-262-0005. The heat is on in Saigon, but this straight-out-of-the-jungle concoction of Tanqueray gin, peach schnapps, Grenadine, and pineapple juice is the ultimate muggy weather refreshment.
Icarus, 3 Appleton St., 617-426-1790. Each year, the goddess Persephone leaves the underworld to spend time with her mother, who celebrates by bringing back the warmth. Carouse with this earthly equivalent of ambrosia—a mélange of pomegranate juice, Cointreau and champagne.
Rhubarb Martini
Arbor, 711 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-522-1221. Prized for its mysterious healing powers, rhubarb invigorated Chinese emperors for centuries. Revitalize with this raspberry-flavored elixir of fresh rhubarb juice, Chambord and vodka.
Aphrodite Cocktail
Meze, 100 City Square, Charlestown, 617-242-6393. Drink like a goddess with this fruity blend of Stoli Strawberry, Midori, Cointreau and pineapple juice that is just as alluring as the Greek deity who inspired it.
Violet Martini
Sel de la Terre, 255 State St., 617-720-1300. Looking for an aphrodisiac? Don’t be a wallflower and try this fusion of vodka and violets—the petals of this flower have been used in love potions for centuries.