Gary Clark and Meg McKinney
Frosty glasses and tinkling ice cubes douse summer's heat at Elixir Restaurant & Bar in Jackson, Mississippi. The posh venue off I-55 serves 18 different martinis. It's like a visit to a candy shop: Electric-looking beverages such as the Lemonhead and Lifesaver ($8) are as popular as the sugary sweets for which they're named. Silence the rumble in your tummy with Moroccan Lamb Chops ($17) or The Elixir Roll filled with Hawaiian bigeye tuna ($18). A lighting designer by trade, owner Skip Nessel knows how to set a mood. Slick lighting and sensual drapes transform the place into one big cocktail party. As Skip puts it, "Something yummy to eat and a cold martini make a fabulous healing concoction." 4800 I-55 North, Suite 6B, Jackson, MS 39211; (601) 981-7896 or www.elixirms.com. Hours: 5 p.m.-until, Tuesday-Saturday.
St. Louis, Missouri
All-nighters are common at this Study Hall--but no one's cramming for a test. "Expanding minds one drink at a time" is the slogan at this watering hole where seasoned guests feel just as welcome as the younger set. Colorful lockers inside and giant pencils outside add to its anything-but-elementary charm. For kicks try one of the After School Specials, such as the Catholic Schoolgirl, made with a shot of raspberry vodka. 118 Morgan Street; (314) 241-4646. Hours: 7 p.m.-3 a.m. Wednesday-Saturday.
You don't have to don a big hat and purchase a Derby ticket to enjoy the unforgettable taste of mint juleps year-round. The Kentucky favorite has been the official drink of the Derby for nearly a century, and fans can find the beverage at The Brown hotel. The popular spot serves the Southern drink upon request in its lobby bar 3 p.m.-2 a.m. daily. Or guests can also score some mint juleps at the hotel's on-site restaurant, J. Graham's Café. 335 West Broadway, (502) 583-1234 or www.brownhotel.com.