Hotels abuzz

450,000 honeybees checked into New York Hilton Midtown’s fifth floor rooftop—but there is still plenty of room for guests. The hotel, which is five blocks away from Central Park, adopted the bees with six beehives. The Italian, Russian, and Carniolan honeybee queens—one for each hive—have been named Shelby, Ruby, Phoebe, Suite B, Beatrice, and Connie as a tribute to Hilton founder, Conrad Hilton. The initiative coincides with the National Honey Month of September.

Beekeeping, a practice as old as ancient Egypt, was banned in NYC prior to 2010 because the legislature considered bees to be dangerous in an urban setting. Andrew Coté, a fourth generation beekeeper, spearheaded the campaign and remains at the epicenter in legalization of apiculture (beekeeping) in NYC. He has also established beehives at the iconic Waldorf Astoria New York. The apiary at New York Hilton Midtown expects to harvest 300 pounds of honey annually. The move will supplement the growing trend of using locally-sourced and in-house ingredients in the menu. The hotel offers a private beekeeping experience, honey-flavored treats, and take-home honey jars.

Cote Unveils the Honeycomb

Coté unveils the honeycomb from the beehive.

As the brainchild of Director of Culinary and Executive Chef Richard Brown, harvested honey will be incorporated into dishes to further amplify the hotel’s seasonal cuisine with items like honeydipped fried chicken and rosemary-honey flatbreads that will soon be available at the hotel’s urban market, Herb N’ Kitchen. In addition, patrons of the recently renovated Bridges Bar can now sip on bourbon-based honey peach cobbler milkshakes and honey-kissed grapefruit cosmopolitans.

By no means are hotel beehives a rarity. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is the largest hotel brand to have adopted beekeeping, with more than 40 apiaries across its properties. The brand also keeps Bee Hotels to provide abode to solitary bees like wild mason bees, which are declining in number due to lack of nesting place.

Honey Kissed Cocktails

Honey-kissed cocktails served at the New York Hilton Midtown Honeybee Unveiling.

The Mandarin Oriental in Paris is another urban rooftop setting for bees.

A hotel can cultivate its own distinctive honey flavor by planting a mix of certain flowers in the area surrounding the apiary. Not only could this prove to be a unique selling point for the hotel, but it can also add adventure for the guests.

Specialty honey can be used to create craft beverages and dishes, and the hotel spa can also leverage it for guests’ enjoyment. It is best to consult an expert regarding regional apiculture laws beforehand, though, as trained staff and periodic inspections are required.

Hotels are becoming less of a landing spot and more of an experience in themselves, and beekeeping offers an experience in sustainability and deliciousness.

We owe bees every third bite we consume. That’s how important the pollinators are. The Guardian reported that the “annual global crop pollination by bees is estimated to be worth $170 billion,” quoting a “European Red List of Bees” report by International Union for Conservation of Nature. Honey bee is one of approximately 20 thousand known species of bees.

In-photo: (Left to right) The general manager of New York Hilton Midtown Diarmuid Dwyer, beekeeper Andrew Coté, and executive chef Richard Brown.

(Images courtesy: New York Hilton Midtown)

By Najook Pandya