British Adventurer Donates Frostbitten Toes For Canadian Cocktail

A British marathoner who got frostbite during the Yukon Arctic Ultra this past winter is donating his toes to a bar that serves what is known as the “Sourtoe” cocktail.

Nick Griffiths, 46, a former Royal Marine, had to drop out of the 300-mile race in February. At one point, it was minus 50 degrees, and organizers pulled him out of the race after he presented symptoms consistent with frostbite.

Griffiths was transferred to Whitehorse General Hospital, and a nurse told him about the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Yukon, which has a special drink that includes a human toe. Patrons have to follow one rule when ordering the cocktail: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe.”

After U.K. doctors surgically amputated his big toe and the two next to it, Griffiths decided he wanted to send them to the bar, 3,900 miles away.

“After the amputation surgery, they actually gave me my toes back in three small jars,” he told the Mirror. “When I was going into the theatre I asked the surgeon if I could save my toes and told him what it was for. He found it quite amusing.

“I wrote to the Downtown Hotel to tell them about my toes and what had happened, and they said they’d love to have them. The only problem is I’m not sure you can just send amputated toes through the post. The staff are looking into how I can send them.”

Over 100,000 people have joined the (tasty?) Sourtoe Cocktail Club. Donors are honoured on the bar’s wall of fame. The bar has received 10 toes over the years, and the descriptions of the toes’ journeys to the bar are featured on the wall.

“The first toe was donated in the 1890s, and I think the cocktail started in the ‘70s,” Griffiths explained. “I know someone stole it, then returned it. Another swallowed the drink and accidentally downed the whole toe too.

“I think you can have your pick of any alcohol that is over 40 percent then you down it like a shot and the toe is meant to touch your lips. They read you a ritual poem beforehand and you get a certificate afterwards.”

Anyone who even thinks of stealing a toe will be given a hefty fine—$2,000.

When the bar receives the toe, they put it in medical fluid, drain it, and then cut off any hanging tissue. It sits in rock salt for six weeks before it’s used in a drink, and then it goes back into the salt for preservation.

Griffiths would love to visit the bar someday and hopes his children and grandchildren will do the same and have a sip of the famous cocktail with his toe inside it.


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