Fifteen stories above bustling midtown Manhattan at the InterContinental New York Barclay Hotel, you will find far more than just luxurious hotel rooms. A hidden door leads from the quiet hotel corridor to a rooftop world in which may be just as bustling as the streets below.
Perched on the roof is a bee colony.
Beekeeping at hotels seem to be all the buzz these days, with bee fever catching on in upscale American properties such as the Barclay and the Waldorf-Astoria, and further afield at Paris' Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
But what exactly are the bees doing up there?
The busy bees that occupy a portion of the roof at the Barclay have been working very hard; this past October was the hotel’s first successful honey harvest since acquiring their bee colonies last year. As part of the Barclay’s constant effort to use sustainable energy and green initiatives -- passionately introduced and managed by General Manager Hervé Houdré -- these hives not only provide constant pollination to the herb and fruit plants in the neighboring gardens, the honey produced by the bees is used in the hotel kitchen and behind the bar to create delicious meals and unique organic cocktails.
The InterContinental has launched a number of environmentally conscious projects, such as growing its own herb garden, composting onsite and using wind energy to supply 100 percent of its power, but visiting the hives and seeing the bees in action is a sight to behold. Better yet was getting to taste the fruits of their labor.
My visit began with The Honey Drop Martini, hand-crafted by Barclay’s mixologist Jose Torella. This refreshingly delicious cocktail is created using solely organic ingredients. The drink includes an actual piece of honeycomb on the glass bottom, an organic vanilla sugared rim, and a perfect blend of Limoncello, vodka, lemon juice, and a hint of rosemary simple syrup. The cocktail is on the menu for all who visit the bar to enjoy.
After enjoying the cocktail and spending time with some NYC Beekeepers, it was time to extract the honey. The hotel manager granted use of one of their kitchens to the beekeepers to ensure the quality of the honey extraction. It was quite remarkable to see just how much honey the little bees can create.
After sampling and discussing the various flavors that can occur in locally harvested honey (depending on where the bees travel and what flowers they snack on) we went to visit the hives. Their steady buzz could still be heard despite our urban surroundings. Standing only feet away from their wooden huts while they crawled and flew in and out was thrilling. They seemingly had no interest in us, however we moved quietly and carefully as to not frighten the thousands of bees, or disturb their hard work.
The evening concluded with a honey-themed tasting menu carefully paired with wines from Christie’s. Each item was artfully designed by Executive Chef Serge Devesa to include the use of honey from their resident bees.
The honey vinaigrette dressing was a perfect touch to mesclun greens, a pan-seared Foie Gras was finalized with a brown sugar, honey drizzle with a touch of lavender, and a roasted crispy duck breast was atop an Asian slaw with a honey soy glaze.
To wrap up the menu, the chef sweetened things up with a honey and cinnamon apple tart, complete with honey chocolate sauce.
Many who reside or visit Manhattan may not think “the city that never sleeps” would be conducive to such a bee-friendly lifestyle. But thanks to the efforts of the team at the New York Barclay and NYCBeekeeping.org, delicious foods, cocktails, and an environmentally-friendly luxury hotel experience is precisely what all the buzz is about.
IF YOU GO: The InterContinental NY Barclay Hotel is located at 111 East 48th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues in New York City; Barclay Bar & Grill is open seven days a week, from 11:00am to 1:00am. Read more about the Barclay's sustainability projects.