Imbibe 75 People to Watch: Andra “AJ” Johnson - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Imbibe 75 People to Watch: Andra “AJ” Johnson

From Ethiopian and Senegalese to Cuban and Salvadorian, Washington, D.C., offers a plethora of possible culinary journeys, and Andra “AJ” Johnson is thrilled to be part of such a diverse community. As partner and beverage director at Serenata in Union Market’s La Cosecha, Johnson runs a bar program aligned with the purpose of the market: to uplift and elevate Latin American foodways and culture. “We do our absolute best to ‘serenade’ and honor Latin countries, traditions, and people through our cocktails,” she says.

Each of her cocktails fuses ingredients that invite drinkers to experience the robust flavor diversity of Latin America. Additionally, Johnson manages White Plates Black Faces, a project she launched in 2018 to address the lack of Black ownership in Washington, D.C.’s hospitality community. “My goal was to figure out why so many people had been in this industry for so long but never got the opportunity to create in their own space,” she says. “Have I seen improvement since then in terms of representation? Yes. But let’s also not forget that being Black is always on trend—and we can’t mistake an on-trend conversation for improvement.”

Johnson encourages those who want to get into the beverage space to ask questions and be proactive. “You’ll have to do a lot of the work yourself, but once that knowledge and expertise is yours, employers, critics, even guests won’t be able to take that away from you.”

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