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Canadian Cocktail: Stiff drink with Amputated Toe

The Wild Life

Dawson City is a small northern town in Yukon with a record of activities

DAWSON CITY, CANADA: The Sourdough Saloon is not like other bars in this rather small riverside town. Every night at nine they carry out an exceptional ceremony with a Canadian Cocktail in hand. It´s about a strict two-ingredients drink. Even if the rule has changed from champagne to any liquid, drinkers must abide by the official chant; “Drink it fast or drink it slow, but the lips have got to touch the toe.”

A Canadian Cocktail to remember; whisky and a frozen toe
A Canadian Cocktail to remember; whisky and a frozen toe

Drink and kiss the toe

The famous drink named The Sourtoe Cocktail has been served in the hotel bar since 1973. It´s simply a shot of whisky, normally Yukon Gold, garnished with a mummified human toe. You simply drink the booze, and you kiss the toe. Don’t gulp too hard or you might swallow it. When the drink is done, you are certified in a club with more than 100,000 members.

This tradition came to life after two brothers in the 1920s smuggling rum in this area. When one got frostbite in a toe, the other shot it off. They kept the trophy in their cottage, where it was discovered 50 years later. The toe became a part of a drinking ritual to prove you were a “True Yukoner”.

A visit to remember. A guest after drinking the cocktail
A visit to remember. A guest after drinking the cocktail

Near the Arctic Circle

A toe cannot last forever, and in 1980 the original toe was swallowed by a local miner trying to beat the sour toe record. On his 13th cocktail, his chair tipped backwards and he swallowed it. There have been seven toes since the original, with some being lost or stolen along the way. The frequency of frostbite up near the Arctic Circle means there’s supply of toes to dip in much-needed strong drinks.

Some locals dancing a traditional dance at a festival
Some locals dancing a traditional dance at a festival in Dawson City

Very cold winters

Dawson City is a town in the territory of Yukon, often linked to the Klondike Gold Rush (1896–99). The vibrant community on the banks of the Yukon River boast a mixture of National Heritage, History, active Gold Mining and the Tourism Industry. It is an Arctic climate with long, very cold winters and short, cool summers. The sun does not rise at all during some weeks in the winter, and is out for 24 hours during  the summer. It means Northern Lights in the winter and Midnight Sun from May to end of July.

Downtown Hotel in Dawson City
Downtown Hotel in Dawson City

Famous Canadian Cocktail

Dawson is a small northern town with a population about 1,500, but still with a long record of activities. Visit the Mining Museum, Dawson City Museum, River Tours, Walking Trails, Mountain biking and trying to find some gold. Add  on the activity list the Dog Sledding excursion during the winter.

But a visit to the wild side of Canada and Dawson has never been for the faint of heart. Certainly, if you happen to enter through the saloon doors at Dawson Hotel when it´s time for  the famous Canadian cocktail.

Place to visit: Sourdough Saloon at Downtown Hotel, Dawson City, Canada




Gudmund Lindbaek
Gudmund Lindbaek
Journalist founded King Goya a few years back. Meeting people, local food and engaging stories are my passion. I plan for ambitious once-in-a-lifetime trips. My delight is the prospect of Future Travels: Longer, Slower, Farther! I just want a tiny slice of adventure to be alive, and then excited to return home.


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