When I heard that there are beehives on the garden rooftop of The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, I knew I had to see them. A few emails later and I was on my way to see these fascinating creatures and meet a beekeeper. The promise of a taste of the pure stuff was just a cherry on top of my honey-infused day.
Seamus Gallagher, Director of Sales and Marketing at The Ritz-Carlton, met me in the lobby, took me through the “back of the house” to the staff elevator and up to the top floor. He opened the door to the roof and no matter what I was expecting, it could not have prepared me for the little Garden of Eden on top of this Charlotte skyscraper.
I came for the bees and I was not disappointed. There are two hives on the rooftop. According to Randall York, The Ritz-Carlton beekeeper and owner of Cloister Honey, there are between 30,000 and 40,000 bees in each of the Flow Hives.
This is the first season that The Ritz-Carlton is using a non-traditional fabricated hive. Flow Hive was invented by a father-and-son team in Australia. They wanted to find a less invasive way to harvest honey. Essentially, a tap is inserted into the hive and honey pours out.
Watch this video for a more extensive explanation of the process.
Four and a half gallons of honey are harvested from each hive two to four times a year. Ritz-Carlton pastry chef Crystal Broadbent was also on the roof to answer questions about the hives. She joked that their biggest problem with the honey is storing it safely away from predators, the staff.
Bar Cocoa, the sweet side of The Ritz-Carlton, offers honey éclairs, honey macaroons and honey pecan gelato. Prices range from $2-$8. If you want a bit of honey in your adult beverage, try Bob Peters’ milkshake with grilled peach, bourbon and Rooftop Honey. Peters is The Punch Room’s head mixologist.
The bees are the main event on the roof, but the gardens provide a spectacular backdrop. The Ritz-Carlton building is a LEED building constructed with materials that make it environmentally friendly. The green roof provides a habitat for herbs, fruits and vegetables to grow.
Up in The Punch Room, Peters uses cilantro in “Fiesta Punch,” rosemary in “Top of the Hill Punch” and basil in simple syrups. Rooftop herbs, like pesto, parsley and cilantro, are used in the Lobby Lounge dishes.
The Ritz-Carlton offers free tours of the roof garden and bee hives, called “Green Behind the Scenes Tours,” to guests and the public on Saturdays at 10 a.m. (Meet in the lobby just before that time, to join.)
The experience of viewing the Charlotte skyline from an open roof is breathtaking. If not for the heat, and probably the strange looks from The Ritz-Carlton staff, I would have setup a hammock.
The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte: 201 E. Trade St.
Photos: Vanessa Infanzon, The Ritz-Carlton