The Strange Cocktail That United Thousands In An Exclusive Club

If you have an adventurous palate and the means to travel, you can build some exciting vacations around sampling the world's rarest foods. Some of them have accrued substantial fame, like truffles and real Kobe beef from Japan, but you can also sample coffee beans harvested with the help of elephants before landing in your cup. If you're plotting an expedition to sample the planet's rarest offerings, there's one destination you might want to put on your agenda, and it's probably the last place you'd expect: Dawson City in Yukon, Canada.

Yukon is not exactly a food and drink destination spot. It is, after all, one of the coldest places on Earth, according to Live Science; temperatures have been recorded as low as minus 83 degrees Fahrenheit. (Maybe you've heard of Yukon Gold potatoes, but they actually come from Ontario.) There is one specialty, however, that you can only find in this remote place, and you'll need to head to the historic Downtown Hotel's Sourdough Saloon, a charming bar whose decor reflects the heyday of the area's gold rush. One drink is on the menu that only a select few have dared to try. 

A drink with an unexpected garnish

Get ready to meet the Sourtoe Cocktail, a shot of your preferred liquor (some type of whiskey is the traditional choice) that is garnished with a mummified human toe. You aren't supposed to swallow the toe, instead, Sourdough Saloon rules insist "You can drink it fast. You can drink it slow. But your lips must touch that gnarly toe." If you accept the challenge, you'll join the Sourtoe Cocktail Club. According to the CBC, the saloon has served 100,000 of these cocktails. The toes served in the drinks — the saloon has used eight throughout its history – were all donations (per Atlas Obscura).

Dawson City recounts a 1920s rum-runner named Louie Linken, who had his frostbitten toe amputated and preserved the removed appendage in a jar of alcohol. Atlas Obscura picks up the story in 1973 when the jar was found, brought to the Sourdough Saloon, and dropped gamely into patrons' drinks. A tradition was born, but in 1980, a miner accidentally swallowed the toe. You'd think the story would end there, yet seven additional toes have been donated to keep the merriment alive. If you swallow a toe now, however, the saloon will charge a $2,500 fine. Just be glad they're not asking you to provide a replacement.