A Double Sourtoe Cocktail

A Double Sourtoe Cocktail

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Old Jonny Two Toe

A Summer 2015 Yukon Prospector Web-Extra


lo_res_toe.JPGI hammered back the infamous Sour-Toe cocktail to kick off my first night in Dawson City. Twice.

  For those of you who don’t know, the Sour-Toe cocktail is drinking a shot of your choice with a decapitated human toe in it. I chosetequila, because it tastes like feet anyways.

  Here’s how it works:

  Your stroll into the Downtown Hotel around 8:30 pm and order a shot of your choice. Nice and early cause the early bird gets the worm and you’re excited to be in Dawson, about to consume liquor that’s washed with the truncated toe of some unlucky man/woman. Besides do you really want to wait in line to do this?

  Around 9 pm a man in a captain’s hat who’s been sitting at the bar walks up to the bartender and grabs a large wooden box. It’s Captain Dick, the purveyor of the sour-toe cocktail.

  Inside said box is the toe. They’ve had about 8 over the years, says the Captain. This one most likely belonged to a female. The Captain says you can tell because the cuticles are pushed back along the toe, meaning they’d recently had a pedicure, before their pedi could be cured no more. 

  The object in question is blacker than most things you should touch with your mouth. It’s kept in a jar filled with salt, which the captain pours out and sets the toe upon, like some small demented shrine to the god of drunken idiots.

I hammered back the infamous Sour-Toe cocktail to kick off my first night in Dawson City. Twice.

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  You take your shot in hand, and grab a seat after the captain gives you the go ahead. Pay the man five dollars, don’t forget to tip, and steel your nerves now if you must.

  The captain begins his spiel. “You, ______ _______, being of sound mind and body, and in the company of witnesses do wish to...” he says, waving the shriveled blackened thing in front of you.

  Then, “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touched this gnarly toe,” are the last words you hear before the toe enters your drink, and your mouth is forever sullied by its acquaintance with dead human meat. 

 Now, it’s easy enough to do the shot. Heck, it’s easy to do the follow up shot, when the captain squeezes the rest of the booze out of the toe and slides your glass over yelling “Toe jam!” Both are over and done in one fell swoop. But let it be known, for the rest of your night/life, no matter how drunk you get, you’re always going to feel that toe on your lips. It stays with you.  Don’t even think about eating hotdogs for a few days.

  But it is fairly invigorating. There’s an air of danger and excitement that goes along with your cannibalistic encounter.

  So after it’s over you can head to Gerties to catch the 10pm show, and hope the gorgeous Cancan dancers can-can wash that black memory from your mind. They won’t, but they certainly provide a welcome distraction from thoughts of “what life choices brought me to this point?”

  Diamond Tooth Gerties is the throwback of throwbacks. The spirit of the old west is alive and well in Dawson, and this place is its (contrived) heart. All the servers and doormen and card dealers are dressed in old time-y garb. White shirts with black vests and red and blue arm-bands for the card dealers, long black dresses and white shirts for the women.

  The shows are fantastic, three unique ones a night. More than once I felt like pulling out my non-existent six shooter and firing wildly into the ceiling while giving little yips of joy, as the dancers lifted their skirts and waved there nethers on stage. 

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  At Gerties, I met Jesse White, from Ottawa, and Line Schmidt from Denmark. The couple had been traveling the world together since they met in Australia. It was that fateful meeting that lead to the second sour-toe cocktail.

  Neither of the two had been able to “get around” to the toe shot yet, and wanting a bit of company, the pair said we had to join them in solidarity.

  I, not wanting to be responsible for their missing the grand event, and already deep in my cups, said we could all do it together.

  So we moseyed back over to the Downtown Hotel, and began the ceremony all over again.

  Feeling confident from the libations and my prior experience, and perhaps wanting to show off for the beautiful couple, I asked if it was permissible to lick the toe.  It is not.  Thankfully. Oh sweet lord, how thankfully.

  When the second round of Sour-Toe was down the hatch, with me telling the good Captain to “skip the ceremony and give me the darn toe,” we grabbed a picture with Captain and headed out into the night.

  That’s when we found the real heart of Dawson. The living breathing heart. Gerties is a wild time, with an awesome vibe, but it’s a show. If you want to experience the people who make the city tick you head to The Pit.

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  It’s a slanted old building with crooked old floors in The Westminster Hotel. There are many murals inside, which I can’t begin to describe for fear of offending our good-natured readers. The Pit is where Dawson goes to let loose. I met TV producers for Yukon Gold, the manager of a not-for-profit golf course, and many hippies, yuppies, truckers, and lovers, (but no fighters). I made friends, fell in love, and fell right back out of it.

  My own night blurs at this point. There was dancing on a slice of floor covered in Christmas lights. Drinks were bought, and laughs were had. It is one hell of a good time, and the people in Dawson are some of the best in this part of the world. It's an easy sort of place. If you’ve ever drank in Yorkville, it’s the complete opposite of that. No judgments, no assumptions.

  The city of Dawson, its history and its people, are rife with stories. There’s Dwayne, the former concert pianist who dropped everything and moved to the city to get away from it all. He now lives on a houseboat. There's a Hawaiian named taco truck started by three Dawson folks. There are tales of train-kids who ride the rails, and stop in Dawson for a short time in the summer. And characters, characters everywhere. 

  I’ll catch up with some of them this summer, and help you get to know them. Right now, I’m going to dust myself off, and try to get the toe off my lips.


Story and Photos by

Jonathan Duncan 

prospector@harperstreetpublishing.com

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