Instant Guide

The Sourtoe: A cocktail garnished with a human toe

Some drinks are finished off with an olive or a maraschino cherry. One Canadian saloon takes a more anatomical approach

Looking for a new cocktail to add to your repertoire? If you've got a taste for adventure (or a foot fetish), you might consider heading to Canada's Yukon Territory. There, in Dawson City, you'll find a little bar called the Sourdough Saloon, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, has been slinging cocktails that feature a very strange ingredient: Human toes. 

Wait, real toes? 
Yes, pickled and plunked into your beverage. The drink, commonly known as a Sourtoe, is the remnant of a tradition that began in 1973 when one Capt. Dick, a riverboat captain, found a severed big toe preserved in a jar of pickles. During a drunken night with friends, Capt. Dick invented the drink by dropping the toe into a beer glass full of champagne, and coining the accompanying rhyme: "You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow. But the lips have gotta touch the toe." Today, for only $5, Sourdough Saloon patrons can have a toe added to any alcoholic beverage of their choice. "Now, that's what I call an artisanal ingredient," says Kristin Iversen at Brooklyn magazine.

Are they still using the same toe?
Unfortunately, an overenthusiastic patron accidentally swallowed the original toe in 1980. But before its untimely disappearance, it had "touched roughly 725 pairs of lips." Since then, replacement toes have come and gone, with locals donating their own digits. One "came by way of a lawn mower accident."

Is this safe? 
The toes spend a good amount of time soaking in medical alcohol until they are thoroughly pickled, so "there is no issue with the toe," says Patricia Living, communications director for Yukon Health and Social Services.

Just how popular is this practice? 
As of September 1973, just 8 people had stepped up to "do the toe." Today, the Wall Street Journal estimates that more than 100,000 people have joined the Sourtoe Cocktail Club. "The wild frontier, it is wild," says Jen Doll at the Atlantic Wire. "And there is absolutely zero accounting for taste."

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