The Sourtoe Cocktail’s Main Ingredient Was Stolen

Someone stole the mummified human toe used to make the Yukon’s famous Sourtoe Cocktail.
Sourtoe Cocktail
The Sourtoe Cocktail

The Sourdough Saloon, part of the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, is home to the time-honored tradition of serving up a unique drink for anyone brave enough to try it: The Sourtoe Cocktail. It is a shot of whiskey (usually Yukon Jack) served up with a real, shriveled human toe floating in it. To become a member of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club one must pledge the “Sourtoe Oath” and remember the most important rule: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe.”

Also, don’t swallow or steal the toe.

Recent: Inventor of the Sourtoe Cocktail dies, leaves toes behind for future drinks

Much to the hotel’s dismay, a customer ordered the drink last Saturday, and then made off with the toe. He convinced a staff member to serve him the drink outside of the designated “toe time,” and then pocketed the severed digit.

The hotel has backups, of course, (because you should always have a few spare toes) but as Terry Lee, the Toe Captain, told the Guardian, “toes are very hard to come by.”

According to the legend, a rum-runner in the 1920s named Louie Linken got frostbite on his big toe during a cross-border delivery. To prevent gangrene, his brother Otto amputated the frozen toe with an axe, and preserved it in a jar of alcohol to commemorate the moment. Years later the toe was discovered in an abandoned cabin and brought to the Downtown where, naturally, it became the primary ingredient in “the most disgusting cocktail in the world.”

The toe was accidentally swallowed seven years later. In 2013 a writer from New Orleans intentionally swallowed the toe and paid the C$500 fine. The hotel then raised the fine to C$2,500. In total, at least 8 other toes have gone missing since the tradition started in 1973, and 10 have been donated. The toe in question is their latest acquisition, donated by a man who had it surgically removed. After six months of being cured in salt, the toe had just made it’s debut that weekend.

Missing toe poster

Fortunately, the thief returned the toe this week. Police were able to track him down because he left his Sourtoe Cocktail Club certificate behind, already filled out with his name on it. He sent the toe back to the hotel in mail along with an apology.

There are over 100,000 members of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club from all over the world. If you can’t make it to Dawson City, here’s the recipe to try at home:

  • 1 ounce (minimum) of alcohol
  • 1 dehydrated toe
  • garnish with courage
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