Established in 1973, the Sourtoe Cocktail has become a Dawson City tradition and is exactly what is sounds like: an actual human toe that has been dehydrated and preserved in salt is used to garnish a drink of your choice.
The first toe is said to have belonged to a miner and rum runner named Louie Liken, who had his frostbitten appendage amputated in the 1920s. Liken preserved it in a jar of alcohol in his cabin for memories. Roughly 50 years later, in 1973, Yukon local Captain Dick Stevenson found the jar containing the toe while cleaning a cabin. Captain Dick brought the toe down to the Sourdough Saloon and started plunking it into the drinks of those who were brave enough. Thus, the Sourtoe Cocktail Club was formed.
Unfortunately, the original toe lasted only seven more years after its discovery. According to the Sourtoe Cocktail Club, “In July 1980, a miner named Garry Younger was trying for the Sourtoe record. On his thirteenth glass of Sourtoe champagne, his chair tipped over backwards, and he swallowed the toe. Sadly, Toe #1 was not recovered.”
Since then, seven more toes have been donated to the bar. Number two was given after an amputation due to an inoperable corn; number three was from a victim of frostbite (it was also accidentally swallowed); four was an anonymous toe (later stolen by a hunter); toes five and six were donated by a Yukon old-timer in return for free drinks for his nurses; toe seven was an amputation due to diabetes; and toe eight arrived in a jar of alcohol with the message, “Don’t wear open-toe sandals while mowing the lawn.” On August 24th, 2013, a man ordered a Sourtoe shot, swallowed it, paid the $500 fine, and promptly exited the saloon. This is the first and only time the toe was deliberately consumed, and as a result the fine has been increased to $2,500.
The rules have changed in the past 27 years. The Sourtoe can pair with any drink, but one rule remains the same: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow—but the lips have gotta touch the toe.”