A Connecticut restaurant is reworking its cocktail menu following complaints from customers about a drink named “the Tuskegee Experiment.”
Last Wednesday Eric Armour posted a picture of the specialty cocktail menu at the 323 Restaurant in Westport, Connecticut, with a particular drink called “the Tuskegee Experiment” circled in pink. “Umm. This is ridiculously horrible,” he wrote on Facebook.
Cocktail names take inspiration from many diverse subjects, and it’s likely that most people who ordered the drink simply didn’t know its namesake. The Tuskegee Experiment, officially titled, “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” was a study run by the U.S. Public Health Service from 1932 to 1972. As can be garnered by the name, the goal of the study was to observe how untreated syphilis progressed in Black men.
While that premise is worrying enough, the details paint a disgusting picture of U.S. medical history. The men were told they were receiving free treatment for “bad blood,” and that the experiment would last for six months. In truth, it lasted 40 years, and they were never given any treatment, even after penicillin was discovered and widely used to treat syphilis. The ingredients in the drink per the menu, “Myers dark rum, Malibu, pineapple juice, fresh lime, pineapple & jalapeño mash, dash tabasco,” seem to suggest a Caribbean theme, adding further confusion as to why it was named after an experiment done in Alabama.
According to Eater, the cocktail menus were removed following customer complaints. But they might have more than one drink that needs replacing. In the comments on Armour’s post, some people questioned the vodka-based drink “Capetown Transfusion” as possibly referencing the spread of HIV through blood transfusions in South Africa before the disease was fully understood. “Bar director is a sick mind,” one commenter wrote.