He has debated creationists and ridiculed rejects of climate change, but perhaps Bill Nye’s strongest scientific belief – which distillery makes the best gin. A longtime fan of Bombay Sapphire, Nye recently partnered with the company to help promote their new ready-to-drink can of Gin and Tonics, filming two videos which mixes his particular brand of science and humor. I talked to Nye about his passion for all drinks Bombay, what he looks for in a tonic bubble, and one of his most memorable martinis.
What was your first drink?
In college, I drank beer, but my grandmother, whom I loved very much, often had a martini in the evening. When I was 31, my grandmother died and we had a memorial and we went out to dinner. My brother said in honor of ‘nana:’ I must have martini, and then I had my first and thought wow, this is genius! It was a Bombay, but not a Bombay Sapphire.
Were you finding out the chemical equations behind the drink?
No, I was thinking about the flavors. Since then, I have become more sophisticated. I can tell one gin from another by smelling them. There’s one thing right now where everyone goes so overboard in the botanical – local this, local weeds – but juniper, that’s what I want to taste.
How did you get involved in Bombay?
I made an off-hand remark to the Wall Street Journal seven years ago that Bombay Sapphire was my favorite, so they have been in touch from time to time. They sent that can of Gin and Tonics over and I thought, wow, this is pretty good. That was when I said, Okay, Bombay Sapphire, let’s make a deal.
What is it you love about Bombay Sapphire?
What is the answer? That’s just right. Ask anyone I have always wanted Bombay Sapphire in a martini. And their new can of Gin & Tonics is amazing. The bubbles are just really good. They are finer, they are silky, they are smoother – I say ‘smoothie’ for comic effect – but it’s a good mouthfeel.
When do you prefer a Martini and when do you want a gin and tonic?
It’s a time of year thing. When hot, gin and tonic are a refreshing summer drink
You already dress very appropriately for an elegant cocktail bar. Were you a fan?
I love cocktail bars, as long as – and I’m not kidding – as long as I do not have to drive. But in New York, OK! One of my great joys is sitting there, because it’s time when you’re not zooming, you’m not on your phone, you’re with some friends, and it’s special. You are out in public, watching people and enjoying a drink prepared by an expert. I was a little skeptical when the Bombay folks said their canned cocktail would be just as good, but I think it is.
After debating a creationist, do you need a stiff drink?
IT was a good martini! You are familiar with debate I had in Kentucky? With respect, by any regular standard of debate, I won. After the debate, we walked across the river to the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, and this bar is beautiful, oh goodness. Stone marble bar, made of seven different balls from around the world, the bartender is an expert. It was a really good Bombay Sapphire Martini. I’m still thinking about it – it was a reward.
Are you a fan of molecular gastronomy?
It’s either liquid nitrogen or it’s not. I like liquid nitrogen. The very first ‘Bill Nye the Science Guy’ bit I did was household use of liquid nitrogen – because we all have liquid nitrogen lying around. We hit onions frozen with liquid nitrogen and they are crushed and give the same sound as broken glass. So I’m very open to it, but compare and contrast any molecular gastronomic creation with some really fancy Japanese food, where it’s this crazy, laborious thing to get amazing taste and remarkable mouthfeel. For me, it is a specialized gastronomic experience.
Do you see similarities between bartenders and researchers?
There is an old saying: cooking is art, baking is science. Bartending is science. My God, it’s art and science – but in mixologist competitions, a challenge is to make the same drink in the same way over and over again for the judges. And there is a huge difference between an excellent martini and a pretty good one.
Are you looking forward to having a drink in a bar again?
What if I said no … of course I am!