Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

Drinking A Sourtoe Cocktail In Dawson City, Yukon


by Anallise Mcintire



Welcome to Dawson City, Yukon, home to one of the most unique and peculiar drinking experiences in the world – the Sourtoe Cocktail. This infamous concoction has gained notoriety for its unusual ingredient: a real, preserved human toe. Drinking a Sourtoe Cocktail is not only a rite of passage for adventurous visitors, but it is also a symbol of the quirky and adventurous spirit that defines Canada.


Located in the heart of the Yukon Territory, Dawson City is steeped in history and folklore. It was once the epicenter of the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800s, attracting a diverse array of prospectors and fortune-seekers. Today, the town retains its rustic charm and serves as a living testament to the adventurous souls who flocked here over a century ago.


The Sourtoe Cocktail has become an iconic and eccentric Canadian tradition, drawing tourists from around the world to partake in this bizarre ritual. Whether you are a thrill-seeker or simply curious about the unusual, joining the exclusive club of Sourtoe Cocktail drinkers is an experience you won’t soon forget.


In this article, we will unravel the legend behind the Sourtoe Cocktail, explore the rules and rituals associated with it, and discover why this quirky drink has captivated the attention of international travelers. So, gather your courage, prepare your taste buds, and let’s dive into the extraordinary world of the Sourtoe Cocktail in Dawson City, Yukon.


The Legend of the Sourtoe Cocktail

The origins of the Sourtoe Cocktail can be traced back to the 1970s, in a small hotel in Dawson City. According to local lore, the creation of this strange drink was inspired by a gruesome discovery made by Captain Dick Stevenson, a former riverboat captain and eccentric character.


Legend has it that while exploring the frozen wilderness, Captain Stevenson stumbled upon an old abandoned cabin. Inside, he discovered a preserved human toe carefully wrapped in a jar of alcohol. Fascinated by this macabre find, the captain decided to establish a unique tradition in the local saloon – adding the preserved toe to a drink and challenging brave souls to drink it.


Over the years, the tradition has evolved, with multiple toes being added to the collection, each donated by individuals who have either lost a toe through unfortunate accidents or have chosen to part with one for the sake of perpetuating the tradition. Each toe has its own story, and they are all preserved in salt to ensure their longevity.


The Sourtoe Cocktail has become a symbol of courage and adventure, inviting individuals to push their boundaries and embrace the unusual. Whether it’s conquering a fear of the bizarre or immersing oneself in the rich history and legends of the Klondike, the Sourtoe Cocktail offers a one-of-a-kind experience that can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world.


The legend of the Sourtoe Cocktail continues to grow, captivating the imaginations of those who hear about it. It has even garnered attention from media outlets around the globe, further establishing its status as a must-try experience for travelers seeking a taste of the extraordinary.


Next, we will delve into Dawson City’s claim to fame as the home of the Sourtoe Cocktail and explore the historic saloon where the ritual takes place.


Dawson City’s Claim to Fame

Dawson City, nestled in the heart of the Yukon Territory, holds a special place in Canadian history. Its claim to fame extends beyond just being the birthplace of the Sourtoe Cocktail. This charming town has a rich heritage that reflects the spirit of the Klondike Gold Rush era.


In the late 1800s, Dawson City transformed into a bustling hub of prospectors from all corners of the globe, lured by the promise of gold. The town experienced a rapid expansion, with the population soaring to around 30,000 in just a few years. It was a place of adventure, opportunity, and hardship.


Today, Dawson City embraces its past and has preserved many of its original buildings, maintaining the nostalgic feel of the gold rush era. Walking through the town is like stepping back in time, with wooden boardwalks, heritage sites, and museums showcasing the stories of the brave men and women who risked everything in search of fortune.


While the gold rush may have faded, Dawson City has managed to carve out a unique identity as a destination for those seeking uncommon experiences. The Sourtoe Cocktail is undeniably the crown jewel of its eccentric offerings. It has continued to attract visitors from all corners of the world, who come to experience the thrill of drinking a cocktail with an authentic human toe.


But the town offers more than just unusual cocktails. Visitors can explore the history of the gold rush with visits to iconic sites such as the Dawson City Museum and the Jack London Cabin. They can also enjoy live shows at the famous Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall, the oldest operating casino in Canada.


Furthermore, Dawson City is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The surrounding wilderness offers opportunities for hiking, canoeing, and even dog sledding in the winter months. One can also take a leisurely stroll along the Yukon River or visit the nearby Midnight Dome for breathtaking panoramic views of the town and its surroundings.


So, while the Sourtoe Cocktail may be Dawson City’s claim to fame, the town itself offers a multitude of treasures, making it a must-visit destination for history buffs, adventure seekers, and those looking to experience the unconventional.


Next, let’s explore the historic Sourtoe Cocktail Club and the rituals and rules associated with this unique experience.


The Historic Sourtoe Cocktail Club

At the heart of the Sourtoe Cocktail experience is the historic Sourtoe Cocktail Club, located in the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City. Steeped in history and adorned with memorabilia from the Gold Rush era, this iconic establishment has been preserving the tradition of the Sourtoe Cocktail for decades.


The club, established in 1973, serves as a gathering place for locals and visitors alike, all eager to partake in the unique ritual of drinking a cocktail with a real human toe. The atmosphere is filled with excitement, anticipation, and a touch of eccentricity.


Upon entering the club, you will be greeted by the friendly staff who will guide you through the process of becoming a member of this exclusive club. All that is required is a pledge to abide by the famous Sourtoe Cocktail oath: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe!”


The Sourtoe Cocktail Club offers a variety of beverage options to accommodate different tastes. While the original Sourtoe Cocktail consisted of a shot of whiskey with the toe submerged in the glass, the rules have since been modified to allow for more choice. Now, participants can choose to have any drink of their liking as long as the toe makes contact with their lips.


As you embark on this peculiar experience, you will be presented with a certificate of membership, proudly proclaiming your participation in this extraordinary ritual. For those who are feeling particularly brave, you can even opt to have your name added to the official Sourtoe Cocktail Club registry, joining the ranks of countless adventurous souls who have gone before you.


Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of the club is the Toe Captain, a position of great honor and responsibility. This individual is entrusted with the care and preservation of the toes, ensuring that they are handled with utmost respect and integrity. The Toe Captain oversees the entire tradition, making sure that each person who drinks the Sourtoe Cocktail does so in accordance with the club’s rules.


With its rich history and unique charm, the Historic Sourtoe Cocktail Club remains an essential landmark in Dawson City. It continues to attract thrill-seekers and curious travelers from all over the world, eager to join the ranks of those brave enough to embrace the strange and unforgettable tradition of the Sourtoe Cocktail.


Next, let’s uncover the rules and rituals that surround the drinking of the Sourtoe Cocktail.


Rules and Rituals of the Sourtoe Cocktail

Partaking in the Sourtoe Cocktail is no ordinary drinking experience. It comes with a set of rules and rituals that have been carefully established to maintain the integrity and uniqueness of this bizarre tradition. Before sipping the peculiar concoction, it is important to familiarize yourself with the guidelines set forth by the Sourtoe Cocktail Club in Dawson City.


First and foremost, the most central rule of all: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe!” This simple phrase encapsulates the essence of the Sourtoe Cocktail ritual. To become a member of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club, your lips must make contact with the preserved toe at the bottom of your glass while consuming the beverage of your choice.


The drink itself can vary. Traditionally, it was a shot of whiskey, but now, in accordance with the evolving preferences of participants, any drink can be used as long as the toe is present. This allows for unique combinations and personalization of the experience while keeping the integral aspect of the toe intact.


As you lift your glass to your lips, it is customary to recite the Sourtoe Cocktail oath: “I, [your name], do hereby solemnly swear to uphold the ancient and honorable tradition of the Sourtoe Cocktail. I pledge to be an upstanding member of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club, to drink this noble libation with dignity, and to ensure that my lips make contact with the legendary toe. So help me, God.”


Once you have completed the oath and consumed the Sourtoe Cocktail, you will be presented with a certificate of membership, commemorating your brave act. It is considered a badge of honor for all those who have successfully conquered the challenge.


It is important to note that mishandling or swallowing the toe will result in a fine. The preservation and integrity of the toes are of utmost importance. The Sourtoe Cocktail Club holds great respect for these unique mementos, and they are not to be taken lightly.


While the rules and rituals surrounding the Sourtoe Cocktail may seem unconventional to some, they add to the allure and charm of this peculiar tradition. Drinking the Sourtoe Cocktail is not just about the drink itself; it is an act that requires courage, a sense of adventure, and a willingness to embrace the unusual.


Next, let’s delve into the process of obtaining and preparing the toe that makes the Sourtoe Cocktail truly distinct.


Obtaining and Preparing the Toe

The Sourtoe Cocktail would not be complete without its most essential ingredient – the preserved human toe. Obtaining and preparing the toe is a critical part of maintaining the tradition and ensuring that each Sourtoe Cocktail served is as authentic as the original.


The toes used in the Sourtoe Cocktail come from a variety of sources. Some are generously donated by individuals who have lost a toe through accidents, surgeries, or other circumstances. Others are bequeathed by those who believe in the spirit of the tradition and want to contribute to its continuation.


Once a toe is acquired, a meticulous process begins to preserve and prepare it for its role in the Sourtoe Cocktail. The toe is carefully cleaned and then placed in a mixture of salt to remove any moisture and prevent decomposition. This time-consuming process ensures that the toe can be preserved for an extended period of time without compromising its integrity.


Throughout the preparation, the preservation of the toe is of utmost importance. The Sourtoe Cocktail Club takes great care to handle the toes with respect and reverence. Each toe is considered a cherished artifact, representing the history and spirit of the Sourtoe Cocktail tradition.


It is worth noting that the toes used in the Sourtoe Cocktail have stringent health and safety standards to ensure that they are safe for consumption. They undergo thorough testing and are carefully inspected by officials to meet the necessary regulations. The Sourtoe Cocktail Club prioritizes the well-being of its participants while upholding the unique nature of the experience.


With the toe now preserved and prepared, it is ready to take its place in the annals of Sourtoe Cocktail history. It becomes the centerpiece of this eccentric tradition, captivating the imaginations of those who come to experience the thrill of sipping a drink with a real human toe at the bottom.


Next, let’s explore the experience of drinking the Sourtoe Cocktail and the tales and legends that surround it.


Drinking the Sourtoe Cocktail

Drinking the Sourtoe Cocktail is a momentous and extraordinary experience, filled with anticipation, courage, and a dash of curiosity. Once you have taken your vows, recited the oath, and raised your glass, the time has come to sip the peculiar concoction that contains the infamous preserved human toe.


As you bring the glass to your lips, you may feel a combination of excitement and nervousness. The presence of the toe at the bottom of the glass makes for an unusual and unfamiliar drinking experience. It’s a moment that pushes the boundaries of what is considered ordinary and challenges you to embrace the extraordinary.


As the liquid touches your lips, the toe brushes against them, creating a unique and unforgettable sensation. The taste of the drink, whether it be whiskey, a cocktail, or another beverage of your choice, mingles with the lingering presence of the toe, adding an unusual and extraordinary element to the overall experience.


Drinking the Sourtoe Cocktail is not just about the taste or the drink itself. It is an act that symbolizes bravery and adventure, a testament to your willingness to embrace the unconventional. With each sip, you become a part of the grand legacy of those who have dared and conquered the challenge before you.


The experience of drinking the Sourtoe Cocktail is not without its special rituals. It is customary, after finishing the drink, to ensure that the toe touches your lips one final time. This act solidifies your commitment to the tradition and serves as a testament to your fearless spirit.


Once you have completed the ritual, you will be presented with a certificate of membership, a tangible token of your participation in this unusual tradition. It is a memento that encapsulates the thrill, the audacity, and the camaraderie of those who have come before you, all united by their shared experience of the Sourtoe Cocktail.


Drinking the Sourtoe Cocktail is not for the faint of heart, but for those who dare to embark on this extraordinary journey, it becomes a story to be told, an experience to be shared, and a distinctive mark of their adventurous spirit.


Next, let’s uncover the tales and legends that surround the Sourtoe Cocktail, adding to its mystique and allure.


Tales and Legends Surrounding the Sourtoe Cocktail

The Sourtoe Cocktail has given rise to a plethora of tales and legends that have only enhanced its mystique and allure. As visitors gather in the historic Sourtoe Cocktail Club to partake in this peculiar tradition, they are regaled with stories that heighten the sense of adventure and curiosity surrounding the drink.


One of the most famous legends is the story of the Original Sourtoe. According to this tale, the first preserved toe used in the cocktail was found by Captain Dick Stevenson himself while rummaging through an old miner’s cabin. It is said that the toe belonged to a notorious rum-runner from the Prohibition era and had been amputated due to frostbite. This toe became the anchor of the Sourtoe Cocktail tradition and set the stage for countless daring individuals to follow in its footsteps.


Over the years, there have been various incidents that have added to the lore of the Sourtoe Cocktail. Tales of accidental swallowing, toe thefts, and even a mummified toe being donated to the club have fascinated visitors and created an air of excitement and intrigue. Each anecdote becomes a part of the ever-growing legend that surrounds this unconventional drinking experience.


The Sourtoe Cocktail has also seen its fair share of challenges and dares. Some participants have attempted to break records by consuming the drink with multiple toes touching their lips. Others have challenged themselves to drink the Sourtoe Cocktail while blindfolded, adding an extra element of thrill and suspense to the drinking ritual.


As the legend continues to evolve, new tales and legends are woven into the fabric of the Sourtoe Cocktail tradition. Every individual who bravely drinks the cocktail becomes a part of this rich tapestry, adding their unique story to the collective lore of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club.


These tales and legends, while often laced with a hint of the macabre, only serve to pique the curiosity and ignite the adventurous spirit of those who embark on the Sourtoe Cocktail experience. They contribute to the mystique and draw of this strange tradition, enticing visitors from around the world to be a part of this one-of-a-kind phenomenon.


Next, let’s explore the global appeal of the Sourtoe Cocktail and why it has captured the attention of adventurous souls worldwide.


The Global Appeal of the Sourtoe Cocktail

While the Sourtoe Cocktail originated in Dawson City, Yukon, its appeal has transcended geographical borders, captivating adventurous spirits from around the globe. The unique combination of eccentricity, thrill, and historical intrigue has contributed to its global fame and allure.


One of the factors that contribute to the global appeal of the Sourtoe Cocktail is its exclusivity. The opportunity to participate in this unconventional ritual is limited to those who make the journey to Dawson City, adding a sense of adventure and rarity to the experience. This exclusivity makes it a coveted item on many travelers’ bucket lists, driving visitors from far and wide to come and partake in this extraordinary tradition.


The Sourtoe Cocktail embodies the spirit of adventure and exploration that attracts travelers seeking unconventional experiences. It pushes the boundaries of what is considered ordinary and invites individuals to step outside their comfort zones. The allure lies in the opportunity to be a part of something truly unique, to add an extraordinary story to one’s travel adventures.


Furthermore, the story and legend of the Sourtoe Cocktail have not gone unnoticed by the media. News outlets from around the world have covered this bizarre tradition, amplifying its global recognition and piquing the interest of even more curious souls. This media exposure has contributed to its reputation as one of the most unusual and thrilling drinking experiences one can have.


The global appeal of the Sourtoe Cocktail can also be attributed to its connection with history and heritage. By drinking the Sourtoe Cocktail, participants not only partake in a daring act, but they also become a part of the rich Klondike Gold Rush legacy. It’s a chance to immerse oneself in the captivating tales of gold prospectors, adventurers, and characters who once roamed the streets of Dawson City.


Moreover, the Sourtoe Cocktail serves as a symbol of camaraderie and community among those who have joined the ranks of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club. Participants bond over their shared experience, creating connections and friendships that transcend borders and cultures. It’s a testament to the power of a common, albeit unusual, tradition to bring people together and forge lasting memories.


Ultimately, the global appeal of the Sourtoe Cocktail lies in its ability to combine unconventional eccentricity with a touch of history, thrill, and adventure. It is an experience that challenges individuals to break away from the ordinary and embrace the extraordinary. Whether it’s the allure of exclusivity, the storytelling potential, or the opportunity to connect with a global community of adventurers, the Sourtoe Cocktail continues to captivate and enthrall travelers from every corner of the world.


As we conclude our exploration of the Sourtoe Cocktail, it’s clear that this peculiar tradition has etched its mark in the annals of quirky Canadian delights, offering a truly unforgettable experience for those willing to take the leap into the extraordinary.



The Sourtoe Cocktail in Dawson City, Yukon, is more than just a peculiar drink – it’s a symbol of adventure, bravery, and the extraordinary. With its unique blend of history, legends, and a preserved human toe, this bizarre tradition has captured the attention and curiosity of travelers from around the world.


Dawson City, with its rich heritage and connection to the Klondike Gold Rush, provides the perfect backdrop for this eccentric ritual. The historic Sourtoe Cocktail Club serves as a gathering place for those seeking unconventional experiences, where rules, rituals, and an exclusive membership welcome participants into the world of the Sourtoe Cocktail.


The tales and legends surrounding the Sourtoe Cocktail only add to its mystique. From the legendary Original Sourtoe to the daring challenges undertaken by participants, each story adds to the allure and fascination of this unforgettable experience. The global appeal of the Sourtoe Cocktail can be attributed to its exclusivity, its connection to history, and the way it brings people from different backgrounds together through shared experiences.


Drinking the Sourtoe Cocktail is a moment of courage and curiosity, as lips touch the preserved toe at the bottom of the glass, creating a sensation that defies the ordinary. It’s an act that creates lasting memories and joins individuals to the long list of adventurous souls who have embraced the unconventional.


As travelers sip the Sourtoe Cocktail, they become a part of a distinct and extraordinary tradition, adding their own tales and memories to the global legacy of this peculiar drink. The allure of the Sourtoe Cocktail will continue to draw the adventurous, the curious, and the brave for years to come.


So, whether you’re a seasoned traveler seeking offbeat experiences or simply someone who dares to step outside the ordinary, the Sourtoe Cocktail awaits in Dawson City. Raise your glass, touch your lips to the toe, and join the ranks of those who have embraced the weird and wonderful in search of exceptional tales to tell.