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Whitehorse man wants to become the next 'Sourtoe Cocktail' captain

Tattoo artist and Whitehorse resident Jamie Law wants to become the next Sourtoe captain in Dawson City. The captain is responsible for handing out the famous Sourtoe Cocktail to those brave enough to try it.

The captain is responsible for handing out the famous cocktail to those brave enough to try it

Jamie Law lives in Whitehorse, but hopes to one day become the 'Sourtoe Cocktail' captain in Dawson City. 'As I see it, more people have astronaut on their resumes than toe captain,' he told CBC News. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

While many dream of becoming a doctor or owning their own business when they grow up, Whitehorse resident and tattoo artist Jamie Law has a more unusual career goal.

He wants to be the next Sourtoe captain at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City.

"I instantly fell in love with [Dawson City]," said Law, referring to his first time visiting the community. "I was introduced to the tradition that is the Sourtoe Cocktail and it was just up my alley."

The Sourtoe Cocktail has been drawing tourists to Dawson City's Downtown for nearly 50 years. It's a simple drink consisting of a shot of whiskey with an unusual accompaniment: a dried human toe.

The Sourtoe Cocktail consists of a shot of whisky and a dried human toe. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

It's not just the uniqueness of the concoction that has Law interested. It's the history of how the drink came to be and the characters who serve it.

That's when Law had an idea.

"I thought, hey, I've owned a captain's hat for many years, and maybe it's destiny, maybe this is what life has been leading me to," he said. "I thought this is what I want to do with my life. I want to be a toe captain.

"The way I see it is there's more people that have astronaut on their resumes than toe captain."

Preparing for the role

The sourtoe captain is responsible for serving the toe to those brave enough to try it. 

Law says he's created traditions that groom him for the role. Any time he is in Dawson he'll have a shot every night he's in town. He says it's to show his loyalty to the tradition.

So far, Law says he's had close to 30 Sourtoe Cocktails.

Law has also taken his commitment to the toe one step further.

"I took it upon myself to get Captain Dick tattooed on the side of my knee to pay homage to the OG of the Sourtoe Cocktail," he said, referring to Captain Dick Stevenson who invented the cocktail after finding an amputated toe while cleaning out a cabin. He died in 2019. 

Law also got the current Toe Captain Terry Lee tattooed on his other knee. 

To show his commitment to Captain Dick and Captain Terry's sour toe tradition, Law got Terry (left) and Dick's faces (right) tattooed on his legs. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

'The first thing I ask is why?'

Current toe captain Terry Lee has been in the role for the past eight years.

When he heard that there was someone who wanted to be the next toe captain, one question came to mind.

"The first thing I ask is why?" Lee told CBC.

Terry Lee has been the sour toe captain in Dawson City for eight years. He says it takes a special kind of person to hold the title of toe captain. 'A good captain has to know how to emote,' Lee explained. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

Lee explained that he does not have a say when it comes to hiring a toe captain. Northern Vision Development owns the patent and copyright on the toe, and the bar manager at the Downtown Hotel is responsible for the hiring process.

"I'm just a flunky," he said. "I'm the guy that serves the toe. They've gone through so many toe captains, good and bad, since Captain Dick."

Lee said it takes a special kind of person to hold the title of toe captain.

"A good captain has to know how to emote," Lee explained.

"Over-emphasized acting is emoting — like Jim Carrey in Liar Liar. As soon as the person comes in I see their body language. I see the expression on their face. I feel their enthusiasm in their voice. I say that person would make a good toe captain."

Lee has no plans on handing over the cap anytime soon, but he says that Law definitely has what it takes to be a great toe captain.

"I really like Jamie," he said. "He has the personality. He's an emoter and he seems to have the presence."

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