February 1, 2012

Bar Guide: Oasis lives up to its name when, baby, it's cold outside

Tucked in the heart of the Old Port, this little taste of tropical transports patrons to a warmer place.


It's cold out. The snow has finally arrived in Maine. Sidewalks are slushy.

click image to enlarge

Bartender Mike LaRose mixes up an Oasis Ocean Martini.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer


WHERE: 42 Wharf St., Portland

PHONE: 370-9048

WEBSITE: oasisportland.com

HOURS: Right now, it's open 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday, but during the summer, it's open seven days a week.

PARKING: On street

SCENE: It's a dance club upstairs with a bar downstairs, and the ideal place for a party.

SPECIALS: Thursdays get $1 PBR drafts, $2 Red Bull Vodkas and $3 Rolling Rocks; Fridays features Blue Raspberry Kamikaze shots, $5 Sex on the Beach and $6 Long Island Iced Tea; Saturday amps it up with $6 Red Bull Vodkas or Jagerbombs.

AMENITIES: Two giant Connect Four game boards mounted on the wall downstairs and a giant Jenga game. Entertainment includes a live band downstairs and a DJ upstairs.

GUILTY PLEASURE: A bucket of Rum Punch or a PBR in a brown bag.

This Maine winter makes me want to run off to some paradise-like place that would be a pleasant change from the gray skies outside my house. But I don't have the funds to fly somewhere fancy like that, so it's probably not going to happen anytime soon.

However, tucked in the heart of the Old Port is a little taste of tropical at the Oasis. The nightclub has two levels with a bar and dance floor, and is perfect for a night out on the town.

My friend and I navigated our way down slushy cobblestone Wharf Street to the Oasis. Two tall palm trees greeted us just inside. Although fake, these trees set the mood, sending you to a place less like Antarctica and more like the Dominican Republic. Water walls with flowing bubbles and changing lights mesmerize you behind the full bar, where tenders work fast to get drinks to their customers.

It's usually a draw for late-night crowds, and we were the first two customers on a recent Saturday night. We grabbed two seats at the tall granite bar and had the bartender's full attention as he mixed our cocktails.

I had an Absolut Ruby Red mixed with orange juice, which was served nicely in a glass with an orange slice, a colorful straw and a palm tree swizzle stick. It was the perfect concoction to remind me of a tropical paradise.

As more people filtered in, it was clear the crowd consisted mostly 20-somethings. Even though it was getting busy, the bartender didn't rush anyone.

"What would you like?" he asked one girl. "I'm feeling adventurous," she said.

With a few more questions, he decided to create a pink cocktail with a mix of Malibu, pineapple juice and some grenadine for the color. It inspired my friend to order a second drink with a dash of grenadine. All of these snazzy drinks were garnished with fresh fruits, and cost just $7 apiece.

A band was setting up in the corner of the bar space, and people started playing the giant games Oasis has to offer -- two Connect Four boards and oversized wooden blocks stacked up to play Jenga. I knew I'd knock over the tower of Jenga blocks in one move, and my friend agreed, so we opted to stick with sitting and sipping our drinks.

More people came in, and one guy ordered a Pabst Blue Ribbon. I was totally amused that the Oasis serves the 24-ounce can in a custom paper bag. It's apparently one of its signature things, but so is its $9 Rum Pail -- rum punch served in a plastic bucket. What more could you want?

The bar was really filling up by the time we left around 8:30 p.m. as it got ready for a night of spinning tunes. We didn't stick around, but from past experience I know that dance floor gets pretty jam-packed as the night goes on. The Oasis does have an outdoor space to enjoy music during the summer, but as I mentioned before, it's cold out this time of year.

The minute my friend and I stepped outside, it was back to the Maine winter reality. But the Oasis did leave me dreaming of a warm summer night, enjoying drinks on the patio and the sounds of a live band.

Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.


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