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Established in 1973, the Sourtoe Cocktail has become a Dawson City tradition. The original rules were that the toe must be placed in a beer glass full of champagne, and that the toe must touch the drinker's lips during the consumtion of the alcohol before he or she can claim to be a true Sourtoer. The rules have changed in the past twenty-seven years. The Sourtoe can be had with any drink now (even ones that aren't alcoholic), but one rule remains the same. The drinker's lips must touch the toe. (" You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow-- But the lips have gotta touch the toe.")
The Sourtoes are actual human toes that have been dehydrated and preserved in salt. Swallowing one is not suggested.
Why should you do "The Sourtoe?"
I'll tell you why! Self respect! You're doing the Sourtoe so that when you go back to your hometown, be it in Europe, North America, anywhere in the World, people look at you in awe. You'll hear their whispered voices ," See that person over there, that person drank the Sourtoe Cocktail."
Parents will use you as an example for their children. They'll say," Timmy, if you work hard enough and strive to achieve in life. Then maybe, just maybe, one day you will drink a Sourtoe Cocktail like your Aunt Wilma and your Uncle Randal."
Not only do you recieve self respect, the respect of peers, loved ones, and drinking buddies. But you also get an official Sourtoe certificate that attests to your achievement.
In Memory of "The Sourtoes."
Toe #1 was that of Louie Liken, trapper, placer miner, and in the 1920's, rum runner. Louie and his brother Otto would cross the border to the United States in a blizzard by dog team to deliver their alcoholic cargo. During one such outing, Louie stepped into overflow and got his foot wet.Fearing that the Northwest Mounted Police were on their trail they had to continue their trip. As a result of extended exposure to the cold, Louie's big toe froze.To prevent the onset of gangrene it was necessary to amputate.
Lacking faith in doctors the brothers had no intention of traveling 60 miles to Dawson and paying one to do what they could just as easily accomplish on their own.The first step in the amputation was anaesthesia. Consuming large amounts of their 180% overproof rum, they soon felt that they were sufficiently drunk to continue with the amputation. Louie stuck out his frozen toe as Otto lifted the woodcutting axe. With one swing the toe was removed. As a reminder of the incident the brothers kept the toe, pickled in a jar of alcohol.
Years later, when cleaning the brothers' cabin, the toe was discovered by Captain Dick Stevenson. After conferring, Captain Dick and his friends decided on the rules of the Sourtoe Cocktail and started serving it at the Eldorado Hotel in 1973. In July 1980, a placer miner named Garry Younger was trying for the Sourtoe record. On his thirteenth glass of Sourtoe champagne his chair tipped over backwards and he swallowed the toe. Sadly, Toe #1 was not recovered.
Toe #2 was donated by a Mrs. Lawrence of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. Her middle toe had been amputated thirteen years earlier due to an inoperable corn.The toe was kept in a jar of salt in the Eldorado's bar. While the bar was undergoing renovation, the jar holding Toe #2 was lost and has not yet been found.
Toe #3 was sent to Captain Dick in 1982 by a trapper in Faro. He'd had his big toe removed due to frostbite. The next summer during a busy night with 60 soldiers "doing the toe," Toe #3 went missing. Later it was learned that one of the soldiers had taken the toe to a canteen in London, Ontario. Once the soldier's commanding officer found out about the toe it was returned promptly. Celebrations over the return of Toe #3 were short lived, when in 1983, the toe was swallowed by a baseball player from Inuvik, Northwest Territories.
Toe #4 was sent by an anonymous donor. While on tour in Watson Lake, Yukon the toe was stolen by a big game hunter from Texas. Though the hunter was identified, he refused to return it until several years later, when the Watson Lake police threatened to lay charges on him for the transport of a human body part across the border.
Toes #5 and #6 were donated by a Yukon oldtimer who wished to remain anonymous. His other stipulations for the donation of his toes were that his doctor also remain anonymous and that all his nurses got to drink the Sourtoe for free.
Toe #7 was delivered by three ladies who arrived in Dawson City by camper from Sudbury, Ontario. The toe had been removed due diabetes and was sent to Dawson after the donor read about the Sourtoe in the newspaper.
Toe #8 arrived in a jar of medical alcohol. The donor had just recently learned a handy life lesson," Don't wear open toed sandals while mowing the lawn."