Thinking Things Through: Lessons learned from nearly swallowing a severed human toe

toeThere are 3 items on my ultimate bucket list. Joining Captain Dick’s World Famous Sour Toe Cocktail Club is one of them. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this… unusual… drinking tradition, Sour Toe cocktails are found exclusively at the Downtown Hotel bar in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. Entry into the prestigious club is easy enough: you simply have to drink a shot of whiskey… Oh yeah, and your class has a severed human toe in it, which must touch your lips as you take your drink.

Since the 1920s, the Downtown Hotel has inducted tens of thousands of members into its Sour Toe Cocktail Club. And on July 15th, 2010, I’m thrilled to say that I became the 36,796th member.

The toe. Gnarly.


The Hotel has gone through eight toes over the years; some stolen, some lost and yes, a couple swallowed. The toes are donated from a variety of sources ranging from frostbitten amputations to unfortunate lawn mower accidents. Some people have even included the Downtown Hotel into their wills, insisting that a piece of them linger in this world at the bottom of a glass of Yukon Gold Whiskey. Here’s a link to the history of the toes:

sour toe

Before you watch the video of me taking the shot, let me answer a few frequently asked questions. Yes, it’s a real severed human toe. Yes, it’s disgusting. And yes, it’s very awesome. I’ll walk you through what was going through my head (and mouth) after the video:

So I got a bit carried away. For dramatic effect, my plan was to drop the toe into my mouth for the briefest of moments. This would also ensure there was no debate as to whether or not it actually touched my lips.

However, once I got the wretched thing in my mouth, I realized I couldn’t spit it out without spraying whiskey everywhere in the process. And I certainly wasn’t going to attempt to swallow the whiskey for fear that I’d swallow the toe as well.

So I was left with one option: manoeuvre the toe with my tongue to get it lined up in my mouth and push it through my pursed lips like a fat, fleshy pasta noodle. As I moved the toe into position in my mouth all I could think of was “please don’t let the raggedy, severed end of the toe be the end my tongue touches.”

Of course that’s exactly what happened.

It was awful and awesome at the same time and I’m thrilled to now be a card-carrying member of Captain Dick’s Sour Toe Cocktail Club. If you find yourself in Dawson City, be sure to pay a visit to the Downtown Hotel and join in on  this proud Canadian tradition.

Moral of the story

sl-post-image31Don’t get in the habit of putting severed human parts in your mouth.

Moral of the story #2? Think things through. It’s easy to get excited about an idea, and hard to resist the urge to dive right in. Perhaps you see your dream house for sale and make an offer before really crunching the numbers. Maybe you snatch up a job offer with a fancy new title before calculating the hidden costs like more time away from your family. Or it could be you have a burning desire to take a baseball bat to your neighbours over-the-top  front yard Christmas display without thinking about how that might affect things the next time you want to borrow their weed-whacker.

Find ways to balance spontaneity with prudence. Have a rule with yourself that before you buy anything over say, $100, you’ll mull it over and sleep on it. Seek out advice from friends and professionals. Make a pros and cons list. Don’t be afraid to say “I’ll give that some thought.”

It’s not about being overly cautious. If it was, I wouldn’t have been able to replace my University diploma with my Sour Toe certificate on the wall. It’s simply about taking a moment to think things through before rushing into a big decision or having an exit strategy for when you dump whiskey and a human toe into your mouth.


Funny stories. Good advice. Check out my books, “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments” and “Balancing Priorities and Prioritizing Balance.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.


Josh Martin
Josh Martin is the creative force behind Badge of Awesome. He is the author of "Misadventure Musings: Lessons learned from life's awesome and absurd moments" and "The Overcoming Obstacles Handbook."

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