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Sourtoe Cocktail: 10 Facts You Didn't Know About The Yukon's Famous Drink

If you’re into weird and frankly, disgusting drinks, then you might have heard of the infamous Sourtoe Cocktail. Some of you might have even tried it! For the readers who are utterly confused, the Sourtoe Cocktail is an alcoholic beverage, garnished with a human toe. Yep, you read that correctly the first time, a real, actual, human toe, (albeit mummified) is included in the unique experience of the drink.

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You may think that such a disgusting sounding concoction wouldn’t have many fans, but in reality, lines go around the corner for this strange delicacy. Who knows, after reading about it, you may surprise yourself and find the courage to try it!

10 The original toe started its journey in the 1920s.

Back in 1920, a fateful snowstorm leads a miner by the name of Louie Liken to lose his toe due to frostbite. His friend is rumored to have amputated the appendage in order to prevent gangrene. Louie decided to make a memento out of his dismembered toe and kept it in a jar full of alcohol.

However, the toe must have slipped his mind because it wasn’t until 1974 that a Yukon local found the jar in a cabin. For whatever reason, the locals decided to take the toe to a local pub, where he plunked it into the drinks of the men who were brave enough. From that point on, the toe stayed in Sourdough Saloon.

9 There’s a hefty fine for swallowing the toe.

Toes are actually quite difficult to come by, as the owner of the Sourdough Saloon found out. Therefore, to avoid losing a wonderful customer attraction, the owner at first posted a $500 fine to anyone who swallowed the toe, accidentally or not. Although the hefty fine worked out great for a while, it turns out that there are people out there who seriously wants to eat the toe.

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Namely, the 2013 patron who walked into the pub, ordered a Sourtoe Cocktail, swallowed the toe in one gulp, paid the $500, and walked back out. After the incident, the somewhat stunned owner changed the fine to be $2500 to ward off any other potential toe-eaters.

8 You can join the Sourtoe Cocktail Club! (at a price)

Traditions at the Sourdough Saloon also revolved around the toe after its introduction. Now, anyone who orders the drink has a chance to join the Sourtoe Cocktail Club and receive a certificate of honor. However, there’s a price you have to pay. In the olden days, members would hold the toe in their mouths as they drank, but times have changed.

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As the current rule goes, “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slowly, but your lips have got to touch the toe.” If you successfully down the cocktail with the toe touching your lips, then congrats! You’re now an official member of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club.

7 The toes are preserved before usage.

Assumably for sanitary reasons, if you can say that a detached body part is sanitary at all, the toe is always dried out and preserved in rock salt before using in the beverage. Well, all except the first toe, which just sat in a jar of alcohol for more than fifty years.

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Depending on your opinions, the blackened, shriveled appearance of the mummified toe either made it a little less gross or way more disgusting. Either way, the mummification process is just another step in the toe drinking ritual that is loved by not just Canadians, but folks all around the world.

6 There are currently 9 known toes in the saloon’s history.

Sadly, iconic toe number one did not last for many years. One fateful night about seven years after the toe’s introduction, another miner was partaking in a tradition started by the saloon called the Sourtoe record. The objective was simply to drink the most amount of Sourtoe Cocktails.

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However, on his 13th glass, the miner accidentally fell backward off of his chair, swallowing the toe. After the loss of the first toe, there have been eight more, as previous ones kept suffering tragedies similar to the first. Currently, the saloon is constantly looking for more donations, so if you’ve lost a toe, consider sending it to Canada!

5 Various accidents lead to more toe donations.

As we’ve discussed, the first toe was acquired after a serious case of frostbite. The toes following it all have their histories as well. Other than frostbite victims, the remaining toes came from sources such as amputation after inoperable corn was found, various Yukon hospitals, and even one guy who chopped off his toe after mowing his lawn while wearing sandals.

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As unfortunate as these accidents have been, they are the reason that the saloon has always had a steady supply of toes as well as back-up toes. However, that being said, it is quite hard to imagine enjoying that one toe with the inoperable corn attached.

4 You can use the toe in any drink.

The tradition has been to drink with the toe in a nice big glass of Yukon whiskey, but tastes have changed over the years. Nowadays, you can order the Sourtoe Cocktail with any drink you had in mind. Popular options include scotch, bourbon, wine, and even champagne! In fact, the first guy who swallowed the toe was drinking champagne with it.

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Or, imagine a nice martini with the toe as your olive. Appetizing, no? In all seriousness, however, it is generally recommended that you choose a drink with a higher alcohol content to kill off any bacteria that may lurk on the toe.

3 Doctors don’t recommend it, but it should be safe to drink.

Medical experts are mostly against the idea of drinking something with a possibly infectious body part within it, but even they have to admit that the toe should be safe. The reasoning behind this lies mostly in the salt preservation, which dehydrates the toe and deactivates any infectious pathogen that it may have carried.

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In fact, experts are more worried about contagious diseases spreading from the saliva of the customers than about the toe itself. This is where the alcohol comes in. If you want to be safe, choose very strong alcohol, such as the Yukon whiskey, and let the toe sit in it for a couple of minutes before drinking for disinfection.

2 The toe has been stolen before

Alas, there are plenty of toe thieves in this world that would love to have a human toe all to themselves, for whatever schemes they have in mind. Two thieves have actually succeeded in stealing the toe in the history of the cocktail. The first, as a hunter, stole the fourth toe and disappeared in the 1990s.

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More recently, in 2017, the toe was stolen again. A customer convinced a staff member to serve him the cocktail outside of normal Toe Time (9 pm-11 pm) and slipped the toe in his pocket. However, he later repented his crimes and returned the toe to its rightful owner by mail, making him an honest thief.

1 The most recent toe is from Britain.

Interestingly enough, new toes have been donated just a little over a month ago! The source is really quite unique as well, with the generous patron being a British arctic marathoner who suffered from frostbite. In fact, after the terrible race, the poor guy lost three of his toes.

Offering condolences, the Sourdough Saloon politely asked for the toes, saying, “only if you don’t need them anymore.” Intrigued, the athlete decided that he would in fact love to be commemorated as the main ingredient of the world’s most disgusting drink, and he mailed all three toes over at once! Chances are if you go to Sourdough Saloon right now, it’s his toes that will touch your lips.

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