'There is no cap on education' says owner of Drinks of Essence Bartending School

FLINT, Michigan — Sheena Harrison, Drinks of Essence Bartending School owner, is continuing to hone her mixology craft. Even after the success of her business, Drinks of Essence mobile bartending service, the creative entrepreneur strives to help her students bring some “flair” to the local bar scene. 

While mentioning an upcoming conference she's going to attend, the former Northside resident says, “Whatever I can learn and bring back to my city and make my students employable, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Harrison’s previous work experience and travels outside of Genesee County have exposed her to innovative bartending techniques that she plans to learn soon and incorporate into her mixology courses. She didn’t reveal exactly what new skills she will attain in the upcoming months but believes those talents will help make her students more employable. Students who successfully pass the course will be state certified and may also be able to temporarily use their ‘Drinks’ earned certificates out-of-state. 

A craft Harrison currently implements in her class is mixing ‘Essense’ signature Apple Crown. The smoking drink is favored among her students and is just one fun method Harrison utilizes to teach bartending 101. Essence also hosts several special events such as 'Trap, Paint, and Mix' parties. Harrison beamed while explaining how the ‘Trap’ idea originated from her youthful connection to the hip-hop culture and social media. 

"When I created my class, I wanted it to appeal to everyone in different learning ways." - Sheena Harrison “It was a thing on social media and it looked fun so I was like 'hey we can do that!'” Harrison laughed. “It's basically where you listen to a DJ play trap music, paint a trap picture, and you just have fun...dance with your friends,” she went on to explain. Trap participants are provided with a fishbowl at their tables and instructed on the correct order to pour drinks in them. “They were ecstatic about that. They had a really good time,” Harrison recalls. 

The first ‘Trap’ event was held in 2019 at Essence's first location on Ballenger Hwy. It then continued at the next locations and has become popular in the community. 

“When I created my class, I wanted it to appeal to everyone in different learning ways,” said Harrison about her fresh bartending class models. “I'm always looking for different things to try to make people choose our business over others.”

Future events include a monthly couple's night, karaoke and cocktails, and who knows what else from the Flint native visionary. It's not all fun and games at Essence, however. Learning mixology requires a lot of dedication and focus as well as some encouragement from the instructor. “Sometimes everybody just doesn’t get it,” explains the hopeful instructor about the different learning curves of her trainees. “But I build their confidence up and let them know they can do it.”

Harrison puts the finishing touch on a classic dirty martini.The Essence course is taught through various methods, including PowerPoint presentations, videos, workbooks, interactive activities, and hands-on. “We do a plethora of things,” Harrison elaborated. The instructor also cited the student's support of one another as a key factor in them earning the bartending certificate. 

Those versatile educational modules have resulted in a huge overall success for the business. A good number of graduates have gained employment in the field which has attracted more students and private event hosting clientele. Recently, Harrison has also been speaking with local bars about inviting her students to shadow their bartenders in real-life settings. 

According to the Essence owner, “the hardest part of becoming a bartender is getting your foot in the door.” Yet, she remembers how easily she attained employment because of her accreditation. In fact, her first bar employer was shocked when he saw her diploma because no other employee had ever interviewed with one. 

Those credentials along with her constant determination put Harrison on the fast track to bar management and eventually to the bar-related establishment that she runs today. All of Harrison’s accomplishments are also attributed to the loving support of her family members.

Her two siblings frequently call to check on the status of Essence taking “bartending to the next level.” And her father can often be found performing building maintenance alongside her husband. Dad also takes pride in planting flowers outside of his daughter’s building. 

The bartending school offers mixology training in conjunction with a ServSafe alcohol certification. The latter is what Harrison describes as the most important part of the course because it trains students on how to gauge patrons' alcohol consumption levels. In addition, classes may be taken virtually and different skills can be attained during the workshops coming soon. 

For more information about courses and events at Drinks of Essence, visit: drinksofessence.com

Read more articles by Omoro Collins.