Welcome to Front & Center, a series highlighting front of the house professionals in Atlanta restaurants. Right now, Scoutmob founding writer and editor-in-chief Liza Dunning writes about Paul Calvert, the mixologist at Pura Vida:
Kind of like a religious experience, I can point to the moment—the time, the drink, the mustached gentleman—that converted me into a cocktail enthusiast. It was at The Sound Table. It was 2010. The drink was The Toronto, which made a rye whiskey fan out of a girl who had always just ordered a vodka soda. The guy behind the bar: Mr. Paul Calvert.
Since that first Toronto, his subsequent move to Pura Vida, and many-a-drink in between, I still manage to be impressed not just by his skill, but by his humble attitude and willingness to share his knowledge with anyone who sits at his bar. Watching him make a drink, you'd think he was tasked with making The Most Important Drink Ever—every single time—focusing intently on each step, making sure my first sip gets a stamp of approval, then discussing what went into said concoction. He's quick with a joke and some historical context to the spirit like a tenured Professor of Mixology. It all goes to make more than an enjoyable adult beverage; it's an adult beverage experience. And in a city filled with mixologists claiming the newest, coolest or most old-school cocktail trend, it's this kind of service that makes a customer into a devout convert.
Just ask my mom, who has never shown interest in knowing 'front-of-house' anything. (I'm pretty sure that term would be lost on her.) After her first encounter with Paul, and a pseudo-religious experience in the world of Mezcal, she now asks me on the regular, "How's that charming bartender at Pura Vida doing?"