Who knew that a story about frostbite could be so heartwarming? British adventurer Nick Griffiths may have lost three of his toes to the cold, but they’re being given a second life… as the main ingredient in one of the world’s most infamous cocktails.
Griffiths was taking part in the long-distance backcountry Yukon Arctic Ultra race back in February when he wound up in the hospital suffering from the effects of the severe cold. Two months later, he had the three toes that were severely damaged by frostbite removed. Doctors were planning to just let them fall off on their own, but eventually decided to take action to remove them before infection set in (I know, WTF, right?) He spoke with doctors before the surgery to see if he might be able to keep them, and they agreed, preserving them in jars after their removal.
Thankfully he was able to, because back in Canada, Dawson City’s Downtown Hotel is perpetually facing a toe shortage. Preserved toes are the main ingredient in their notorious Sourtoe Cocktail, a simple concoction made up of a mummified toe served in a shot of whiskey. Finishing the shot (the toe MUST touch your lips) enables you to join an elite club of daredevils who can say they’ve survived the Sourtoe.
But, given that toes are in short supply and people are weird, the bar seems to have constant problems with them being stolen. In 2013, a customer famously swallowed a toe before immediately slapping down the $500 fine payment on the bar, and most recently, in 2017, a drunken customer made off with another (he eventually mailed it back with his most sincere apologies.) The Downtown Hotel wound up asking Griffith if he would be willing to donate his toes to their cause, and he readily agreed. Once his toes are sent to the bar back in Canada (Griffith is currently at home in England), the story will come full (Arctic) circle.
More tales of the strange and unusual…