The Canadian Press
A U.K. man who lost three toes to frostbite in a Yukon race says he can’t think of a better place for the digits to go than into people’s drinks.
Nick Griffiths plans to donate his amputated appendages to the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Yukon–home of the famed Sourtoe Cocktail.
“It would be quite a novelty one day . . . to say ‘your granddad’s toe is in a bar in Canada,'” Griffiths said from his home in Bolton, England.
Griffiths said he spent a year training for the Yukon Arctic Ultra, a 483-km race that follows the Yukon Quest trail–one of the world’s toughest sled-dog races.
Conditions on the first day of the race were especially tough, with temperatures dipping below minus-40 C and a high level of humidity, he recalled.
He was disappointed when he had to drop out of the competition 30 hours in, when a ranger identified frostbite on his ear, nose, and fingers.
But Griffiths didn’t realize how bad his toes were until a doctor at a hospital in Whitehorse explained that they weren’t getting their natural colour back.
Instead, they were turning purple and the doctor said he could lose half of his foot.
After five days of treatment, Griffiths was discharged and still hopeful he would be able to keep all of his toes. But in the weeks that followed, they blistered and began turning black.
It was like something from a zombie film, Griffiths noted.
A doctor amputated the toes on March 28.
Griffiths has never been to the Downtown Hotel, but said he learned about the Sourtoe Cocktail from a Whitehorse nurse who showed him a video of her downing the beverage while he was in hospital.
According to the hotel’s website, adventurous drinkers interested in joining the Sourtoe Cocktail Club should visit the hotel’s Sourdough Saloon and ask for Captain River Rat.
They then purchase a shot of their preferred liquor, pledge the “Sourtoe Oath,” and watch as a dehydrated human toe is dropped into the glass.
Then it’s bottom’s up.
The only rule: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips have got to touch the toe.”
Bar manager Jonny Klynkramer said the saloon is looking forward to Griffiths’ toes since they only have two “pointer toes” at the moment.
“We always prefer big toes, they’re the meatiest,” Klynkramer noted.
Since the digits are stored in salt, to keep them dried out, he said they pair best with tequila.
The cringe-worthy cocktail dates back to the 1970s. But over the years, toes have been lost, stolen, and fallen apart, so the bar always is looking for more donors.
Klynkramer said they get most of their appendages from people who lose digits to frostbite, lawnmower accidents, or surgery, and most have been from living donors as it’s harder to find someone to remove them from a dead body.
Griffiths wrote the bar an e-mail to see if they were interested in giving his toes a new life.
“They wrote back and said they’d really love to have them, and I would forever by immortalized in their hall of fame if I did,” he noted.
“So I asked the surgeon, when I went into the theatre, and he said, ‘Yeah it’s sort of a bizarre thing to ask for but you can have ’em.’
“He put them in three little jars for me in medical-grade alcohol and they’re currently in my bedside cabinet at home,” Griffiths added.
“I’ve just got to find a way to get them to the hotel,” he remarked.
“I’m not sure if you can just put them in the post.”