“Drink it fast, drink it slow, lips have got to touch the toe.”
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Those words may sound like an urban legend, but that’s the line recited dozens of times every night at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City—made famous as the place where you can down a shot garnished with a real human toe. Yes, you read that right. A real human toe.
You see, sometimes us crazy Canadians come up with really strange ideas, and Captain Dick Stevenson was no different when he started the bizarre tradition of dumping a dehydrated toe into his drink back in 1973. Ever since, partiers have flocked to the tiny heritage town of Dawson City to cross this one off their bucket lists.
You’re probably saying, “as if it’s a real toe.” Well folks, I have it on very good authority that they are real toes, donated from all around the world. Obviously there are a number of reasons not to swallow one, but that’s exactly what happened in 2013 when some special snowflake from New Orleans purposely slammed it back. He threw down the $500 fine in straight cash and fled town before the locals could get to him. Since that incident, the fine for swallowing a toe has been raised to $2,500.
While I wasn’t crazy about the idea of going anywhere near a decomposing body part (much less let it touch my face), I would probably never hear the end of it if I chickened out. Plus, travel journalism. So you’re welcome, loyal readers.
On a Friday night, a small group of us wandered over to the old hotel which is so authentic it still has the old saloon doors out front, and were immediately greeted by the Captain. Well, the female version anyway. She was busy filling out a certificate of completion for a couple of young guys who had just successfully downed the Sour Toe Cocktail, and directed us to the bar to pick our poison.
Obviously we went with a shot of Yukon Jack, then hesitantly made our way back to the table and paid our $5 ‘toe tax.’ Before I knew it, the Captain was reciting “Drink it fast, drink it slow, lips have got to touch the toe,” and I was staring straight at a blackened big toe with the nail still intact. Oh. My. God.
Watch this video to see how I handled it:
Not bad right?! So I have to admit, doing the actual shot wasn’t that bad, and it’s not like the toe was moving or anything. The worst part though? When the Captain squeezed the whisky the toe had soaked up back into my glass, and offered it to me to drink. OH HELL NO.
While a Sour Toe Cocktail may not be everyone’s libation of choice, it goes without saying that the experience is a must-do for those who find themselves in Dawson City.
Just don’t swallow it.
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