In a bottle of mezcal there is a worm, and when you finish the bottle you swallow the worm. It's one of those traditions we all know, whether from terrible personal experience or frat boy movies. Fewer of us know about the Sourtoe Cocktail, a unique specialty of the Downtown Hotel bar in Dawson City, Yukon. The Sourtoe Cocktail is a drink of your choice... with a severed, mummified human toe dropped in it. You pay five extra bucks for the toe. When your drink is served, toe floating in it, the bartender tells you “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe.”
The Sourtoe Cocktail has been a specialty of the Downtown Hotel bar since the early 1970s. The bar serves about 30 or 40 Sourtoe Cocktails a night, and an estimated 52,000 people have joined the Sourtoe Cocktail club, which includes a certificate and a membership card and everything. The toe is mummified in salt, and over the years there have been a couple of different toes. The latest was donated by a guy who lost his toe in a lawnmower accident.
But now the Downtown Hotel is going to have to find a new toe because some guy swallowed it. There's always been a fear that someone would do something like that, so the hotel bar posted a sign saying there would be a $500 charge for swallowing the toe. On Saturday night a man - known only as "Josh From New Orleans" - ordered a Sourtoe Cocktail, knocked it back and then pulled $500 out of his pocket, slammed it on the bar and left. He left Dawson City, in fact, having earlier in the day cut his hotel reservations short.
Josh From New Orleans is clearly a hero. Earlier in the night he had been seen in another bar, getting loaded, and he had been trying to decide whether to ring the bar bell - which would buy everyone in the bar a round - or do something more legendary with his money. He opted to become a legend.
Now the Downtown Hotel is searching for a new toe. Previous toes had all been donated, most of them posthumously in wills. Perhaps they could get in touch with Walter Sobchak. I heard he can get you a toe.
Oh, and if you're thinking of going to the Yukon and swallowing the new toe, know that the fine is being raised to $2,500.
Toe photo by Josh Martin.