We Tried the Sourtoe Cocktail: Here’s What You Need to Know

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Close up of the sourtoe cocktail
Source: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

One of our favorite things about traveling is enjoying unique local experiences. If you’ve followed our adventures, you know we occasionally enjoy an adult beverage. When we heard about the Sourtoe Cocktail, we knew it was right up our alley.

As you’ll soon see, this isn’t just an ordinary cocktail. Do you have the stomach to join this exclusive club?

Luckily, we do, and today, we’re sharing everything you need to know about the experience. Let’s get started!

What Is the Sourtoe Cocktail?

The Sourtoe Cocktail is one of the many drinks on the menu at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. However, what separates this cocktail from the rest is that it contains a preserved human toe. Yes, you read that correctly.

The unique drink is a challenge for patrons who are up for it. The toe sits at the bottom of a shot of whiskey. The rules state, “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe.” 

A woman standing with the captain holding the sourtoe cocktail

What Are the Origins of the Sourtoe Cocktail?

This unique tradition began in the 1970s when Captain Dick Stevenson discovered an amputated human toe in a jar. The captain was cleaning out an old cabin and took the jar down to the Sourdough Saloon in town. It wasn’t long before the Sourtoe Cocktail Club formed, and patrons were kissing the toe.

However, the toe used in drinks today is not the original. After 12 glasses of Sourtoe champaign, a local miner discovered that 13 is an unlucky number. His chair tipped backward, and he accidentally swallowed the toe, and it was never seen again.

Thankfully, seven more toes have since been donated so the bar could continue the tradition. The toes have been swallowed and stolen multiple times. 

Sourdough Saloon created a $500 fine for any patron who intentionally swallows the toe. However, that fine was increased to $2,500 when a man swallowed the toe, paid the fine, and left the saloon. That’s an expensive shot of whiskey! 

Surprisingly, the Sourtoe Cocktail is 100% legal. There are no laws in Canada that prohibit the concoction. Since the toe has an epoxy layer around it, there’s no chance your lips will contact the toe. 

The challenge has been going strong for nearly 50 years, and law enforcement officials know it. If there were legal issues surrounding it, they would have stopped it by now.

How Much Does the Sourtoe Cocktail Cost?

If you’re brave enough to belly up to the bar and try this cocktail, it’ll set you back $10, plus the cost of the alcohol. For us, it was $10 each for the challenge and $5 for a shot of Yukon Jack. Additionally, we opted to pay $10 to add the souvenir shot glass to our collection.

However, as mentioned, the cost quickly increases if you intentionally swallow the toe. We recommend only opening your mouth wide enough for the shot to pass and for your lips to touch the toe.

What You Need to Know About the Sourtoe Cocktail

Before you make your way to Dawson City, there are some things you need to know. Let’s dive in and look at some helpful information so you can make the most of the experience.

The Toe Is Coated in Epoxy 

As we briefly mentioned earlier, the toe has a coating of epoxy on it. So there’s no chance you’ll end up with your lips touching rotting flesh.

Once we learned this fact, it was a little easier for us to take on the challenge. However, we can confidently say that we wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for the epoxy.

A woman drinking down the sourtoe cocktail

Sign Up Early

We failed to realize how popular this challenge is with visitors. Everyone passing through Dawson City seemed to be coming to the Sourdough Saloon to take on the challenge.

If you can, sign up early. The Saloon starts taking names for the challenge at 6:30 p.m. and calling them at 7 p.m. If you don’t get on the list early, you may wait a while for your chance to kiss the toe.

However, this may buy some time to drink another glass of liquid courage before taking on the challenge. 

Keep in Mind: Instead of bringing wine glasses on your camping trip, try these camping wine glasses that are better than glass!

Avoid the Busy Times

Depending on your schedule, you may not be able to arrive early. If that’s the case, you want to avoid the busiest times. We asked, and the bartender told us that two major things typically affect wait times: tour buses and shows at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall.

He said, “After each show, you’ll get a wave of people from Diamond Tooth Gertie’s coming here to do the Sourtoe Cocktail.” This is typically a rather consistent flow of people from around 9 p.m., 10:30 p.m., and 12:30 a.m.

Additionally, tour buses tend to arrive before the bar opens around 4 p.m. On these days, you might have a small wait even if you arrive before the buses. After all, there are only so many toes to go around.

A sign showing there have been 104,547 sourtoe cocktails served so far

Other Unique Cocktails to Try

We’re proud to say that the Sourtoe Cocktail is one of the oddest cocktails we’ve ever experienced.

However, while we haven’t tried these, we discovered some other bizarre beverages around the world.

Snake Wine

As its name indicates, Snake Wine is an alcoholic beverage infused with snakes or parts of snakes. It’s a popular drink in Southeast Asia, specifically Vietnam, China, and Thailand.

The beverage is typically a mixture of venomous snakes or cobras with wine or grain alcohol. While originally consumed for its potential medical benefits, it’s become a novelty and exotic drink for tourists.

When consuming this beverage, it’s important to remember that venomous snakes contain toxins. You could gamble with some serious health risks by drinking Snake Wine. We recommend that you proceed with caution with this one.

Baby Mice Wine

Baby Mice Wine is similar to Snake Wine and is popular throughout China and Korea.

As its name suggests, it requires the fermentation of baby mice or rats with rice wine or grain alcohol. The rodents are typically less than a few days old before they get placed into a container of rice wine or another alcohol.

Those who consume Baby Mice Wine often find it contains health benefits. They often claim it boosts vitality, promotes healing, and can even treat certain ailments. However, very little scientific evidence supports these claims, and most medical professionals advise against consuming it.

Keep in Mind: Before you crack open an iced cold adult beverage at the end of a long day, make sure you know if you can drink alcohol in national parks!


Ayahuasca has been in the news lately as more people embrace it as a natural healing option. You can find this powerful psychoactive brew throughout South American countries like Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia. However, a bit more goes into anyone consuming this drink.

The consumption of Ayahuasca typically happens during a very traditional ceremony. A shaman or someone trained in facilitating the ceremony leads the group through the experience. 

Participants in the ceremony often experience hallucinations, which lead to gaining insights, personal growth, and healing emotional wounds.

Should You Take the Sourtoe Cocktail Challenge?

While we can’t speak for the other beverages on our list, the Sourtoe Cocktail challenge is worth trying. It’s a fun local experience you’ll enjoy sharing with friends and family. These types of challenges are often fun, and everyone gets a good laugh. 

However, just don’t laugh while kissing the toe. If you do, you could end up paying that hefty fine!

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