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Dawson City Receives New Sour Toe

Dawson City Receives New Sour Toe

Nick Griffiths' frostbitten digit has completed its year-long adventure from an English bedside to a Yukon whiskey glass.
By Jacob Boon
Jun 11

Nick Griffiths has finally gotten his toe in the door at Dawson City's Downtown Hotel. The rest of him should follow shortly.

The hotel announced on Tuesday it received a shipment from the United Kingdom containing a dismembered big toe. Usually, that's an event which warrants contacting the police. But in this case, it was a cause for celebration. The toe belongs—belonged, sorry—to Griffiths, a former British marine who lost three of the appendages to frostbite while racing through 2018's Yukon Arctic Ultra. 

At the time, Griffiths caused a small media storm by promising to donate the severed digits in the hopes of returning one day to the Yukon and drinking a Sourtoe Cocktail made from his own toe. Now, it looks like he'll get his chance.

The famous Yukon tradition involves downing a shot of whiskey from a glass with a mummified toe inside. “Once the toe touches your lips, you have officially joined the club and get a certificate to commemorate the prestigious occasion,” reads a press release about the hotel’s newest trophy.

The tradition dates back to the 1920s and two bootlegging brothers named Louie and Otto Linken. The story goes Louie stepped through a patch of ice in a blizzard, leaving his toe frozen solid. The bothers decided to remove the frostbitten toe and for whatever reason place it in a jar of alcohol for safe keeping. Eventually, the jar and toe were found by Captain Dick Stevenson in 1973 who started the Sourtoe Cocktail Club. Since then, somewhere close to 100,000 people have paid good money in Dawson to lock lips with a mummified toe.

One of the toes already on the menu at the hotel. VIA INSTAGRAM

In 2013, one of the older toes was lost when a patron swallowed it whole, slamming the requisite $500 fine on the table for his premeditated consumption of property (the fine was later upped to $2,500). Another toe was stolen in 2017 and later mailed back by the thief with an apology note.

Given those past crimes—and the importance of the object for Yukon tourism—the Downtown Hotel is certainly happy to have another toe on hand.

“Only in the Yukon,” general manager Adam Gerle says in today’s press release. “We couldn’t be happier to receive a new toe. They are very hard to come by these days and this generous toe-nation will help ensure the tradition continues. It’s also extra special coming from Nick and we look forward to welcoming him to Dawson City where he can claim the rare distinction of shooting his own Toe!”

Terry Lee, toe master at the hotel, says it will take approximately six weeks to mummify the medical waste on rock salt before it can be served.

“The big toes are the most disgusting and popular with the customers,” he says.

Accordingly, the hotel promises to foot the bill for Griffith’s visit.