In Canada’s untamed Yukon territory, in a town of just over a thousand, there’s a hotel bar that will serve your drink with a truly unique garnish: a human toe.
Dawson City, home of the Sourdough Saloon, was a boom town of the Yukon Gold Rush. Today, most of the local tourism is still centered around the past. Fittingly, the bar reportedly traces its first podiatric acquisition to a miner alive during the 1920s. And so the Sourtoe Cocktail was born.
Since then, the adventurous have learned the motto “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe!” Of course, sometimes the overzealous set down their glass sans booze and toe.
When I asked Geri, the hotel’s manager, if donating a toe bestows special bar privileges, she answered bluntly: “Well, no…because you’d be dead. We don’t accept donations from live donors.” What seemed painfully obvious to her just made me more curious. She put me on speakerphone with bartender Terry.
How many toes have there been? Do you go through them often?
Oh, between 11 and 18 since 1973. Currently we have enough to put a whole foot’s worth in a cocktail, but we are also looking for big toes.
How do you get the toes?
People just send ’em in. Most donations are anonymous, but they come from all over.
Do you actually sell any of these?
In the summer months (tourist season), we have a line around the room and sell 50–90 a day. 125 was the most we ever sold in one day.
Well, there you have it. If you ever find yourself a 36-hour drive north of Vancouver, Canada, Terry recommends the popular pairing of Toronto-based Yukon Jack liqueur, plus $5 for the toe. And, he adds, tip is not included.
Matt Merkin is a writer and photographer currently based in Oakland, CA.