Drinking a Sourtoe Cocktail in Dawson City, Yukon

Drinking a Sourtoe Cocktail in Dawson City, Yukon

dawson city sourtoe cocktail“Drink it fast, drink it slow, lips have got to touch the toe.”

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.

dawson city sourtoe cocktailYou 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.

dawson city sourtoe cocktail
A real human toe in the Sourtoe Cocktail.

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.

dawson city sourtoe cocktail
The Captain handing out a Sourtoe Cocktail

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.

dawson city sourtoe cocktail
My certificate of completion.

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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11 thoughts on “Drinking a Sourtoe Cocktail in Dawson City, Yukon”

  1. Pingback: White water rafting down the Yukon's Tatshenshini River

  2. Pingback: Dawson City, Yukon: A guide to the town that time forgot

  3. Pingback: Chasing glaciers on a Kluane National Park flightseeing tour

  4. Oh, my gosh. I have to admit, when I clicked on this link from Twitter I had no idea what I was getting into. Kudos to you for actually going through with it! I would have completely chickened out. Also, I love your blogging style. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your toe-drinking experience with us!

  5. I lost my certificate. 🙁 Somewhere between Peggy’s, The Downtown and the Pit but it was a good night. It started off at Peggy’s and running into Lawrence Hill who wrote The Book of Negros. He was the writer in residence at the Pierre Burton house and it ended at the Pit. I lived in Dawson for a couple of years and I have to say it’s the people who make it what it is.

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