A bar in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada, famous for its “sourtoe cocktail” is short one human toe. The local tradition of downing drinks containing a severed digit, gnarled and leathery, goes back to the early 1970s, when a river barge pilot named Captain Dick Stevenson founded the “Sourtoe Cocktail Club.”
Terry Lee, a local retiree who has worked as “toe captain” at the Downtown Hotel since June, said the toe was “mummified” with salt, and put into drinks for brave patrons about 30 to 40 times per night. More than 52,000 have joined the club, each receiving certificates and membership cards as relics of their courageous deed. “It’s a dark brown colour, completely wrinkled. It’s a gross looking thing,” he said. Lee recommended trying it with Yukon Jack whisky. There’s a $500 fine for swallowing the toe, which Lee said is meant as a “deterrent.”
But on Saturday night, a man unidentified only as “Josh from New Orleans” entered the bar and approached Lee’s station near closing time with a shot of whisky. He paid his $5 “toe tax” to have the amputated artifact dipped into his glass of booze. Lee recited the standard line spoken to all those willing to feel the big toe bump against their mouths: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe.”
The man drank it fast, slurped the toe into his mouth, and quickly grabbed his pint of beer and chugged, Lee recalled. “This guy popped it in his mouth . . . takes $500 out of his pocket and slams it on the table and starts walking away. I said, ‘Where’s the toe?’ and he said, ‘I swallowed it’ . . . I was shocked.” Now that their toe has been swallowed, Lee and his fellow captains are on the hunt for a new one. “We’re looking for a toe - or toes,” said Lee. And when they get one, he added, the deterrent fine will be jacked up to $2,500.