Remember that one Christmas when you donated to Toys 4 Tots? That was nice. But until you’ve given up actual body parts for the greater good, you can stop bragging about your so-called “philanthropy.”
In this case, that greater good is the donation by one now-famous British explorer to a notorious bar in Canada’s Yukon Territory. The Downtown Hotel in Dawson City is best known for their Sourtoe Cocktail. It’s an uncomplicated affair — a heavy pour of booze (typically whiskey or tequila) with a mummified human toe floating in it.
To successfully join The Sourtoe Cocktail Club, one need only pledge the Sourtoe Oath, down the drink, and let the toe touch your lips. There’s but a single rule: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips have got to touch the toe.” In the more than four decades since the club’s founding in the mid-’70s, more than 77,000 have joined.
The story of the one-of-a-kind tipple made its rounds online a few years back. It has since become something of a rite of passage for travelers to Canada’s more remote reaches. It resurfaced in 2013 when someone intentionally swallowed the toe, then gladly slapped down $500 on the bar — the requisite “fine” for the offense — just to say he did it. Then, in 2017, some joker stole the toe. It was subsequently returned, but the bar has made sure to keep a stock of toes on hand ever since.
Enter Nick Griffiths. The hardcore British-adventurer-turned-toe-philanthropist traveled to Canada to run the Yukon Arctic Ultra. This 300-mile (483-kilometer) dogsled race is among the toughest in the world. Griffiths soon learned how tough it could be when he was forced to drop out after just 30 hours. Weather conditions for the 2018 run proved exceptionally grueling with high humidity and temperatures hovering around -40 degrees Celsius. The adventurer found himself at a hospital in Whitehorse, where he was given the diagnosis that he could lose half his foot. He left after five days of treatment, hopeful that his condition would improve. However, a few weeks after his discharge, it began to blister and turn black. Shortly after, doctors were forced to amputate Griffiths’ toes.
While Griffiths had never actually been to or heard of the Downtown Hotel, a nurse in Whitehorse shared with him a video of her joining the Sourtoe Cocktail Club. Since he figured he did not have much need for his severed toes, he ultimately decided to donate them to “bar science.” He told The Star, “It would be quite a novelty one day … to say ‘your granddad’s toe is in a bar in Canada.’” Different strokes for different (toeless) folks, we suppose.
The hotel’s bar manager, Jonny Klynkramer, is excited to receive the digits, noting they currently only have two “pointer toes” in stock. Also in an interview with The Star, he stated, “We always prefer big toes, they’re the meatiest.”
And Canada wonders why Americans think they’re weird.