A British endurance athlete who lost his toes to frostbite after a gruelling ultramarathon has donated them to a Canadian bar - which will use them in their notorious house cocktail.
Nick Griffiths, a former Royal Marine, had been taking part in the Yukon Arctic Ultra last year - a series of races over distances between 100 and 400 miles that take place over many days.
The 47-year-old Griffiths was forced to drop out of the race after he got severe frostbite in his left foot and returned to the United Kingdom for treatment.
In hospital he was told that he would have to lose three toes, including the big one. While reflecting on his lot in life, Griffiths remembered an advertisement he had seen in Canada before the race.
“It said: ‘Had frostbite? We want your toes,’” Griffiths told the Guardian. “I thought it was a bit of a joke, really.”
But the advertisement was real and was the work of the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, where for the past four decades an especially gruesome drink has been served.
The Sourtoe Cocktail includes Yukon Gold whiskey and a preserved toe and since it was first served in 1973, more than 86,000 have been made.
The only rule when quaffing the drink, to successfully receive a certificate immortalising the event, is that you have to let the toe touch your lips.
As a local rhyme has it: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the tow…”
Back in England, Griffiths had asked the surgeon who removed his toes to let him keep them in jars. After receiving a positive response from the hotel to a letter he wrote offering them his digits, he had to work out how to send them.
He settled on mailing them, but when he was at the Post Office he was asked what was in the package.
“I couldn’t think of anything. I didn’t want to just blatantly lie and say it was a candle or whatever,” he told Guardian. He ended up writing “Novelty gift” on the envelope.
The toes duly arrived in Canada, where the hotel said they “couldn’t be happier to receive a new toe” as “they are very hard to come by these days”.
Griffiths is now deciding whether to return to the Yukon to sample a drink made with his own toes - which could be the first time that has ever happened - but the hotel has said it will pay his fare to come over this summer.