Flint, MI—Sheena Harrison is shaking up daiquiris and Flint’s downtown business scene at her newly-opened bartending school in Buckham Alley.

The Flint native moved her formerly Burton, Mich. based school to its alley storefront just ahead of the Christmas holiday, offering her first training on Dec. 19, 2022. 

Harrison said that although she wasn’t necessarily looking to move at the end of her last lease, the opportunity to transition into a prime location nearer to her clients and events was simply too good to pass up.

“I felt like it was just God saying … ‘This is where you should be, and this is where you’re going to grow your business the way you want to grow it,’” she said. “I love that [other] space as well. It was right on Saginaw Street, and it was in Burton, but Burton wasn’t really my home.”

Harrison told Flint Beat her business began as a mobile bartending operation in 2015, which the entrepreneur still runs alongside a food truck. She then opened Drinks of Essence as a bartending school in October 2021. Her school was and remains Genesee County’s only licensed bartending school.

Harrison’s newly-rebranded Drinks of Essence space offers students bartending certification options through a 3-day accelerated program or evening classes.

“We still do the mixology lessons,” Harrison added. “And then I’m going to be offering workshops, too, for current bartenders that want to practice on speed, or multitasking, or different things like that.”

Sheena Harrison demonstrates how to make a dessert pear mocktail at the new location of her business Drinks of Essence in downtown Flint, Mich. on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

On a recent tour of her new location, Harrison was brimming with pride in the space, which features fresh white walls, high-top tables, a lofted open ceiling, a selfie-station and a bar full of unique glassware and a variety of Michigan-based and big-name spirits.

“I’m always for bringing different experiences back home,” Harrison said of her choice to include non-traditional liquors and drink vessels. The back bar includes glassware that hangs from a metal stand or is shaped like a light bulb alongside standards like rocks glasses and highballs.

“You go to different places and you think, ‘I wish we had something like that at home,” Harrison said. “We’re going to do that… I’m stepping it up a notch.”

Harrison said she’s planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony for her new school later in January or early February 2023. For now though, she said she’s looking forward to joining Flint’s downtown landscape by partnering with other businesses and supporting local bartenders in their training or improvement efforts.

“I’m just glad to be back in Flint,” Harrison said, adding that she had been helped greatly by the City of Flint’s economic development department and the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce. “I can’t complain about any of my businesses. I’ve been blessed and have the support of my community to be able to do everything that we want to do.”

Drinks of Essence Bartending School is located at 524 Buckham Alley, tucked behind Comma Bookstore and next to Torch Bar & Grill.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....