It’s no secret that people eat and drink things that can seem questionable to outsiders. Well, a cocktail that’s semi-popular in Canada falls into that category, and it’s suddenly getting attention for its sheer gross factor.
It’s called a Sourtoe Cocktail, and it consists of a mummified human toe floating in a shot of whiskey. Yup, an actual toe. The drink is most famously served at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City and patrons have to let the toe actually touch their lips before they can get a certificate and be admitted into the Sourtoe Cocktail Club. According to the city’s official website, the recipe simply requires 1 ounce of alcohol (typically Yukon Jack) and 1 dehydrated toe-garnished with courage.
The Downtown Hotel is apparently always on the hunt for new toes, because they have an ad on their website, asking for donations. “Got frostbite? The Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Yukon is currently seeking toes for its World Famous Sourtoe Cocktail,” it reads, noting that donors will be “forever immortalized” in the Sourtoe Hall of Fame.
The cocktail started to get global attention after the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper reported on the story of a man who mailed his frostbitten toes that he had to have removed to the hotel. The toes were then put in rock salt for six weeks to preserve them before they’ll be served in whiskey.
Geophysicist Mika McKinnon started tweeting about the whole thing, confirmed that the drink is real, and poked fun at the fact that the hotel “casually” advertises for toes “like it’s NBD.”
Q: ...what.- Mika McKinnon (@mikamckinnon) June 13, 2019
A: The Sourtoe Cocktail is any straight liquor with a toe in it, provided your lips touch the toe. Whiskey is most popular (typically Yukon Jack) pic.twitter.com/N3ugfioZBc
Gross factor aside, is drinking a cocktail with a human toe in it even safe?
It kind of depends, says infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “It depends on whether or not the toe is sterilized before it’s put into the drink,” he says. “A toe, just like any other part of your body, will have bacteria on it.”
If there is still blood in the toe, Sourtoe Cocktail drinkers run the risk of contracting infectious diseases from the drink, Dr. Adalja says. The fact that it’s served with whiskey can help somewhat, though. “We do use certain types of alcohol as a sterilizer, but it depends on the the purity of the alcohol and what proof it is,” he says, adding that grain alcohol is better.
However, if the toe has been properly sterilized before it lands in your drink, it’s really no different than having a Bloody Mary with pieces of bacon or pepperoni in it, Dr. Adalja says.
Still, this is definitely weird. “I don’t know what the allure is,” Dr. Adalja says. “People send their food back when there’s a hair in it. I’m not sure why you would pay to have a toe in your drink.” Not too keen on the idea? We recommend these tasty low-cal cocktails and beers instead.
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