Nick Griffiths sent two amputated digits to the Downtown Hotel in Dawson city for its Sourtoe special

The amputated toes of a British endurance athlete are to be given new life, as the centrepiece of a notorious Canadian cocktail.

As Nick Griffiths lay in a hospital bed last year after succumbing to frostbite in the Yukon Arctic race in northwest Canada, the worlds coldest ultra-marathon, his mind drifted to an advertisement he had seen earlier in a hotel in the territory.

It said: Had frostbite? We want your toes, Griffiths told the Guardian. I thought it was a bit of a joke, really.

It was not. For more than 40 years, visitors have flocked to the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City for a chance to try the countrys most infamous drink: the Sourtoe Cocktail.

The beverage consists of a mummified human toe floating in a whiskey shot; patrons must let the digit or its blackened nail touch their lips in order to receive a certificate and qualify for admittance to the Sourtoe Cocktail Club.

Upon returning home to Bolton, Griffiths learned he would lose three of his toes to the frostbite. He asked the surgeon to keep them.

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Terry Lee holds a toe 2016. The drinker must let the digit touch their lip to receive a certificate and qualify for the Sourtoe Cocktail Club. Photograph: Alamy

During his recovery, he began corresponding with the Downtown Hotel about possibly donating the digits, but his physical rehabilitation and work hours complicated plans to travel to Yukon.

Months passed and Griffiths kept his toes in jars just in my bedside drawer. Finally, after much back and forth with the hotel, he suggested simply mailing them to Canada.

At the post office, he panicked after being asked what was in the polythene envelope.

I couldnt think of anything. I didnt want to just blatantly lie and say it was a candle or whatever. He told the postal clerk he was mailing his toes and wrote Novelty gift on the envelope.

He kept one of the toes as insurance because, he said: Im not sure really you should be posting toes.

More than a month later, the toes arrived in Dawson City. We couldnt be happier to receive a new toe. They are very hard to come by these days, said the hotel in a statement.

Terry Lee, the hotels toe expert will now preserve the digits in rock salt for at least six weeks before they are served in whiskey.

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A severed human toe used in Downtown Hotels Sourtoe Cocktail. Photograph: Alamy

The big toe is the money toe, Lee told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

We usually dont get frostbitten toes. Usually, theyre from gout or diabetes, or theyre lawnmowers or chainsaws or accidents to get a frostbitten toe, thats phenomenal. There are currently three toes in use.

In recent years, the hotel has grappled with a spate of toe thefts, and the hotel now nails anyone who attempts to swipe a toe with a fine of C$2,500 (1,500).

The establishment is now trying to convince Griffiths to make the trip to the Yukon to try the cocktail. He is not sure if anyone has ever sipped the whiskey with their own toe swirling around, but is keen to be the first.

People look at you as though youre a bit mad, he said. But I think its a nice little bit of fun.

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