In the States, hotel bars and restaurants get a bad rap. They're thought of as cookie-cutter, unoriginal and unreliable for little more than a whiskey neat. Soul Bar is the exception.

In the States, hotel bars and restaurants get a bad rap. They're thought of as cookie-cutter, unoriginal and unreliable for little more than a whiskey neat. Soul Bar is the exception.

In the States, hotel bars and restaurants get a bad rap. They're thought of as cookie-cutter, unoriginal and unreliable for little more than a whiskey neat. Stuffy and poorly lit, these are not the places known for cocktail originality.

Soul Bar is the exception. The long, white-topped bar in the lofty, naturally lit lobby of Le Meridien, The Joseph is one of the Short North's untapped resources for those seeking a dynamic cocktail, interesting spirits or a wine list stripped of blasé New World vintages (The Prisoner, I'm talking to you).

The rather large drink menu of classics, bubbly-based drinks and craft creations is inspired by hotel food and beverage director Roger Vivas, who pulls flavor inspiration from his extensive travels and whatever spirits peak his interest. Vivas says he tries to make everything feel original. "You have this beautiful building, artwork, floors," he says. "The visual that it gives you is phenomenal. I wanted to complement all this uniqueness."

Take the Rye & Thai ($11), which stars two base spirits: Del Maguey Vida mezcal and rye infused with red Thai chili peppers. The two play nicely, offering a sweet, smoky heat that builds up like a subtle wave. French-style triple sec and Angostura bitters give it balance.

"When I make a drink, I think, 'How can I give depth to it?'" Vivas says. "Many times you have a drink or a meal and it's a great first bite, but you quickly forget it." Vivas makes drinks that linger. It's why the menu is speckled with infusions, house-made syrups and shrubs-the latter in a fun margarita riff, the Tequila Shrub ($12) with tequila, dry curacao and a lime shrub.

If sweet and fruity is more your style, try the Lusty Lady ($11), a frothy egg-white cocktail shaken with Hayman's Old Tom Gin, St. Germain and white grape juice. Served up, it's like a bouquet-pretty to look at and beautifully aromatic thanks to a sprinkling of lavender water.

Spend some time reading the liquor list. Soul Bar offers bottles you're unlikely to find at many other places in the city, with a heavy emphasis on bourbons, tequilas and gins (including an Old Tom-style aged in wine barrels from Ransom Wines and Spirits in Oregon that will soon be featured in a Martinez).

When it comes to wine, Vivas features varietals with different influences. It's equal parts old and new with vinos hailing from France, Italy and California. At any one time, there are 18 to 20 high-end wines available by the glass (on a hot day, go for a crisp Bishop's Peak chardonnay, $11/glass), plus more than 100 by the bottle.

Soul Bar's lineup is as clever as its neon sign that warmly beckons passersby on High Street-a liquors sign turned upside down and illuminated to read: Soul.