The Sourtoe Cocktail: A Drink Garnished With A Human Toe

Jul 22, 2017 3 comments

In Dawson City, by the Yukon River, up north in Canada, there is a bar where you can order a shot of whiskey garnished with a real, dehydrated human toe. The ritual known as the “Sourtoe Cocktail” started more than forty years ago and has become almost like a rite of passage for visitors to Dawson City.

The story goes that back in the 1920s, a rum-runner named Louie Linken and his brother Otto ran into an awful blizzard, and Louie got his big toe frozen solid. In order to prevent gangrene, Otto chopped off his brother’s frostbitten toe. The two then preserved the amputated toe in a jar of alcohol as a memento. Fifty years later, a Yukon local named Captain Dick Stevenson found the jar containing the toe while cleaning a cabin. He brought the pickled toe downtown, where somehow it became the essential ingredient of the celebrated drink.


Photo credit: The Guardian

So far, the Sourdough Saloon has gone through at least eight different toes, all donated by patrons. Nearly all of them have gone missing—some stolen and some washed down the throat. The first deglutition was accidental, when a miner swallowed it on his thirteenth glass of Sourtoe champagne. That happened in 1980, and it was the original toe. The Saloon’s eighth toe was stolen in June this year.

Back in those days, its wasn’t unusual for participants to put the whole thing in their mouth and spit it back out again. That’s probably how it got swallowed in the first place. Now the rules have changed, and there is a fine for anybody who swallows it, either accidentally or intentionally—not that anybody would want to swallow a black, mummified human appendage on purpose, or so they thought, until 2013, when a man walked into the Saloon, ordered a Sourtoe Cocktail, swallowed it, slapped down the fine of $500 and calmly walked out. The hotel responded by raising the fine to $2,500.

For the less adventurous ones, the rules are clear —in order to become a member of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club, you must allow your lips to touch the toe.


Photo credit: The Guardian


The sourtoe sitting over a lump of salt, used to preserve the toe. Photo credit: TravelingOtter/Flickr


All participants who successfully complete the Sourtoe Cocktail challenge is awarded a certificate. Photo credit: Jimmy Emerson/Flickr

Sources: / NPR / The Guardian / Inverse


  1. Very intresting, but I think I will get all my alcohol served NEAT!

  2. Nasty as fluck................ but if your on a date with a girl and your trying to diss her so she never calls you back ever this might be a perfect solution. This is great also for dumping your girlfriend

  3. Didn't just drink it - I Nailed it!


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