The Drink That Comes With a Human Toe


Dawson City in Yukon, Canada, has a history as a gold mining town—the kind of place where people are forced to invent new ways to entertain themselves during the long, cold winter nights.

According to local legend, one Captain Dick Stevenson was cleaning out an old miner's cabin there in 1973 when he found a surprise: a mummified human toe floating in a jar of alcohol. Less inspired minds might have thrown the toe away, or perhaps tried to donate it to a museum. Instead, Stevenson created a unique drink—one part toe, one part champagne.

As Dylan Thuras of Atlas Obscura explains in the video above, the drink, known as the Sourtoe Cocktail, became a hit at a local hotel bar. Thousands of of brave souls have tried it, and some have taken home the certificate awarded to those who follow the drink's only real rule: "You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow—but the lips have gotta touch the toe." You can try the cocktail today at the Sourdough Saloon in the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, although the champagne has been replaced by a less-classy, though perhaps more appropriate, shot of whiskey (usually).

The toes in the drink have a habit of disappearing—people swallow them, accidentally or otherwise, and steal them. In fact, there've been so many disappearing digits that there's now a $2,500 fine for swallowing the toe. The bar is currently said to be on its tenth toe; fortunately, they always keep one on reserve.

While the Sourdough Saloon may be the only bar to serve a cocktail garnished with human flesh, drinking alcohol that's been used to preserve humans or other animals is not totally unheard of. In Britain, the phrase "tapping the admiral" (to drink a small bit of a strong drink) refers to a folk legend in which the body of Admiral Horatio Nelson was preserved in a cask of brandy or rum after his death in the battle of Trafalgar. When the body arrived back in England, the cask was found empty, because (it's said) thirsty sailors had bored small holes in the cask to suck out the drink with a straw. We think we'll stick with wine.

Banner image via John MutfordCC BY-NC-ND 2.0