Food Ink: Lindsey Knott of the Mercury and the Pinewood

The director of operations at two popular Atlanta restaurants pays tribute to the late David Durnell with a fresh tattoo

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All of Lindsey Knott’s tattoos have meaning. On the back of her calves, you’ll see her parents' names. She has one with her brother that reads, “Always remember there is nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name,” and one of an avocado that she got together with a friend. “Mine has the pit in it to represent my daughter,” she explains.

But one of Knott’s most prominent tattoos is dedicated to the memory of her good friend and former colleague David Durnell, who passed away this past February. Atlanta diners may know Durnell as Bocado’s innovative beverage director, and would-be managing partner at Inman Park’s Amer before his untimely death at age 28. But Knott and many of Durnell’s friends remember him for what they drank while hanging out after hours, or during what Knott calls “friend dates.”

Knott and Durnell met during Bocado’s early days. “He was this very guarded, quiet, super awkward guy. I think it took him a month to say hi to me,” she recalls. Slowly, Durnell warmed up to Knott, and a few conversations over the bar blossomed into a five-year friendship.

To this day, Knott very clearly remembers Durnell introducing her to Campari and soda. They would walk over to the Westside Octane for a cortado and one of the famously bitter cocktails. “So, it was always something that has reminded me of him, and I felt like the tattoo was … the best thing I could get that would represent him and how much I loved him,” she says.

No value assignedCreated by David Patterson at Kingdom Tattoo in Decatur, the tattoo is positioned prominently on Knott’s forearm. “It’s so bright that everyone comments on it,” she says, adding that the contrast between the bright red ink and her skin leads some people to conclude that she’s wearing a sticker. “I found the bottle cap that was Campari and soda, but it was just red and white. My tattoo artist knows that I really like this seafoam-ish green color that he has, so he sneaks it into a lot of my tattoos.”

Knott wanted her tattoo to stand out even though Durnell purposefully tried not to. “It’s a good reminder,” she says. “A lot of people didn’t get David. He was very hard to get to know. I know that. Deep down, he was this very sweet, fun guy.”

Knott misses the fanciful cocktails that Durnell would craft, instantly identifiable but with a style that was always changing. “I can recognize one of his drinks by the look of it and the names," she says. “Before he passed away, he was very into garnishes, whereas a year before he thought garnishes were stupid. He would say, ‘Don’t put a straw in one of my drinks.’ And then, all of sudden, it would be blackberries, mint, a flower and a straw in a crazy glass with crushed ice. He just went into his phases.”

Durnell also held a fascination with clarifying juices, which guests can still experience today at Amer. “He just had things that he would spend hours and hours on,” says Knott. Today, the bartenders at Amer do the same.

The bar stands as a strong reminder of Durnell, and going there can be hard for Knott. She remembers when Durnell got his Amer tattoo, inspired by a French-Belgian horror movie of the same name. He was very into foreign thrillers. Amer means bitter in French.

As director of operations for both the Mercury at Ponce City Market and the Pinewood in Decatur, Knott’s high visibility keeps Durnell’s memory alive. Meanwhile, at Amer, cocktail aficionados can experience firsthand the genius behind the creation. For Knott and many of Durnell’s friends and family, this means everything.

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