Update, November 19, 2019: Captain Dick Stevenson—creator of the Sour Toe cocktail and occasional riverboat captain—has kicked the bucked at the ripe old age of 89. His final request: to have his deceased toes removed and mummified so that they can be enjoyed in Sour Toes for many, many years to come.
“I’m pretty sure I’m the only daughter in history that has to, following my dad’s will, make sure that his toes are removed and dried and make it up to Dawson City,” said Dixie Stevenson to CBC News after his passing last Thurday in Canada’s Yukon Territory.
“He kept telling me how I’m supposed to dry his toes. So one day I said, ‘Dad, you have to come so I can type this out, because I’m not going to remember it.”
Captain Dick requested there be no funeral or memorial service in his honor, telling his daughter he preferred people to “do their own thing.” Truly, the only way to properly pay our respects to a Canadian cocktail legend is to raise a glass in his honor. If you happen to have a mummified toe lying around to drop into your glass, even better.
Original story, September 24, 2019: This week, the greatest story ever told adds yet another chapter. Way up north in the frigid plains of Canada, in a little Yukon town called Dawson City, former British marine Nick Griffiths is preparing to drink a cocktail containing his own frostbitten, mummified toe. But before we get to that, we need to take you way, way back... all the way back to the year 1973.
Our story begins with a man named Captain Dick Stevenson, who bought a cabin that had formerly belonged to a deceased miner and bootlegger named Louie. While cleaning it out, Stevenson—a fur trapper and occasional riverboat captain—discovered an amputated, frostbitten toe preserved in a jar of alcohol. Stevenson, who we hope is known to locals as Captain Dick, decided to head to the local saloon to show off the newly acquired amputated, frostbitten toe in a jar of alcohol. After a few rounds of drinks, the iconic Sourtoe Cockail was created: Champagne in a beer glass, served with a bobbing, amputated, frostbitten toe.
Though the spirit of the Sourtoe has remained the same since its creation 46 years ago, the cocktail itself has changed a bit. The original toe was lost in July of 1980, when a miner attempting to set a record accidentally swallowed the toe along with his 13th Sourtoe. Since then, seven more toes have been donated to Captain Dick—who holds court at the bar in Dawson City’s Downtown Hotel—to keep the tradition going:
- Toe 2: amputated due to an inoperable corn
- Toe 3: frostbite (and, like the original, was accidentially swallowed)
- Tow 4: sent in anonymously, later stolen
- Toes 5 & 6: donated by a local in exchange for free drinks
- Toe 7: amputation
- Toe 8: arrived anonymously in a jar with the message “Don’t wear open-toed sandal while mowing the lawn” attached to it
The toe isn’t the only thing that’s changed—current rules stipulate that the toe can be enjoyed in the beverage of your choice, but your lips must, at least once, come in contact with the toe. Those who successfully drink the Sourtoe are granted membership into the exclusive Sourtoe Cocktail Club, which currently boasts over 90,000 human members, and one parrot named Waldo.
It was a good time for Griffiths’ toe to fall off. Captain Dick and the Downtown Hotel have maintained a stock of donated toes, since the mummified digits deteriorate over time and, being the town’s best-known attraction, they can’t disappoint anyone who treks all the way to the middle of the Yukon to try the Sourtoe. For a time, they had five toes that were donated by a miner whose leg was run over by a bulldozer, but eventually the stocks ran dry. Captain Dick has occasionally had to improvise, swapping out the toe for the testicles and penis bones of black bears, but those are not ideal as they’re only readily available during hunting season—plus bear balls are not toes.
Which brings us to 2019. Griffith’s toe could not have fallen off at a better time. He had developed frostbite after competing in a 500-kilometer endurance race across the Yukon last year. News of his misfortune made its way around the Yukon news and was noticed by the Downtown Hotel which, coincidentally, was in desperate need of amputated, frostbitten toes. The current Sourtoe toe had long been in a state of deterioration, and the hotel was actively searching for a replacement. After contacting Griffiths and having what could very possibly have been a totally normal conversation for the two concerned parties, Griffith shipped his amputated toe over, where it was mummified by packing it in salt for six weeks.
And there you have it, folks. The greatest story ever toe-ld.