Shaken, not stirred: The Laundry’s Tod “JJ” Johnson creates bonds with all his patrons

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Laundry bartender Tod JJ Johnson
Tod 'JJ' Johnson won the Legacy Award from the Colorado Restaurant Association. (Photo courtesy Laundry)

Tod “JJ” Johnson, a manager with Rex’s Family of Restaurants who still jumps behind his beloved bar at Laundry, has been a Steamboat barkeep for eons — before RedBull was ever even considered a mixer or causing hangovers. After spending 22 years at Mazzola’s, he helped open Big House Burgers bar before moving onto Laundry, pioneering such classics as the Fiery Margarita, a JJ-honed blend of habanero-infused silver tequila, cilantro/lemongrass simple syrup, fresh lime juice and a splash of fresh OJ. A three-time winner of town’s Best Bartender accolades, he’ll listen to your story and tell his own as he pours drinks that will make you stick around for more. Swillin’ catches up with him for an inside look at the creator and his concoctions. 

Age/Family status: 54, married to wife Teresa, no kids.

When and why did you move to Steamboat? I moved here in 1988 to realize the ski bum dream. My first job was a bouncer at the Clocktower Bar and Grill.

What’s your bartending background? In 1989 I started at Mazzola’s as a pizza delivery driver. I learned many positions at Mazzola’s in the BOH and the FOH before learning to bar tend in 1991.

What’s your favorite drink to make? I enjoy making the Fiery Margarita at Laundry because of the response it gets from the customers. It’s pretty good. 

Least favorite? I don’t have a least favorite. I’ll even break out the blender to make a customer happy.

Favorite drink to drink? I’m not sure I have a favorite drink, it depends on so many factors, form the time of year and day to the weather and occasion. But one of my favorite pairings is popcorn with a bourbon and Coke.

What you like about working at Laundry? I like working at Rex’s Family of Restaurants because it has allowed me to grow with the company and offers the same opportunity for others to pursue.

What you like about Steamboat: I have traveled throughout the world and most of the country and still get to live in my favorite place. There’s no better place to come back to. 

Favorite ski run: I like the flow of Heavenly Daze; it just lets you go and go, seeing the valley the whole way down. 

Other hobbies/interests: Traveling, fine wine and food, camping, golf, our dog Senna, and dive bars of all types.

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