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Drinker at Yukon watering hole purposely swallows human toe

The Downtown Hotel, a Dawson City bar, has become well known for its Sourtoe Cocktail: any kind of liquor – 40 per cent or higher – served with a preserved human toe bobbing in the glass.

CHUCK STOODY/Canadian Press

A Dawson City bar says it has been crippled after a patron swallowed the essential ingredient in its most famous drink: a human toe. The Downtown Hotel has become well known for its Sourtoe Cocktail: any kind of liquor – 40 per cent or higher – served with a preserved human toe bobbing in the glass. Patrons brave enough to try the drink are supposed to touch their lips to the toe, but not swallow it.

Terry Lee, the bar's "Toe Captain," said that on Saturday night, an American patron, who had drunk the cocktail before, decided to ingest it this time.

Mr. Lee said the customer was a card-carrying member of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club, a distinction given to each person who tries the drink. To gain full membership, people agree to abide by the club rules, including a $500 fine if the toe is ingested. He said the patron drank the cocktail, swallowed the toe, put the money on the table and left. "He just wanted bragging rights, that's what he wanted," Mr. Lee said, adding the patron deliberately swallowed the toe.

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The Sourtoe Cocktail was invented in 1973, when an eccentric local named Captain Dick Stevenson found a severed toe in a cabin. He plopped it into a glass of champagne and the Sourtoe Cocktail was born.

While some rules have evolved over the past 40 years, one has stayed the same according to the Sourtoe Cocktail Club website: "You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow – But the lips have gotta touch the toe."

Mr. Lee said toes have been ingested unintentionally. He said the bar receives toes through donations: either people who have lost toes in accidents or through illness, or have stipulated in their wills that they want a toe or toes donated to the bar.

Mr. Lee said the drink has become the bar's biggest draw, but is now concerned because only one toe remains. "With two toes, we like to give the toes a rest as they last longer, so we trade them off one a week. For a solid week, they're in the salt and they become rock solid," Mr. Lee said, adding the bar serves approximately 30 to 40 Sourtoe Cocktails a night. More than 52,000 people have imbibed."Now that we only have one toe, we have to use it continuously and that's going contribute to the deterioration of the toe," he said.

Mr. Lee said the fine has been increased to $2,500.

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