Swampwater, the Drink

National Catfish Day

Your cocktail calendar entry for: June
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National Catfish Day is June 25 so that means we’ll be mixing up the Swampwater drink.  You may have rolled your eyes at the though of a bottom-feeding scaleless fish, or figured that this was something like National Lima Bean Respect Day, but you would be missing the point.

National Catfish Day, you see, is official.  In recognition of farm-raised catfish the US Congress passed a House Joint Resolution designating June 25 as the date.  President Ronald Reagan proceeded to issue a proclamation:

“Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim June 25, 1987, as National Catfish Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

National Catfish Day endures as something to be celebrated.  We at The Drunkard’s Almanac believe, of course, that drinks fulfill the appropriate ceremonies and activities concept, whether or not a catfish is present.

About Those Catfish

There are a lot of catfish out there.  From the Mekong giant weighing over 400 lbs. to the tiny candiru species of South America, there’s a catfish to suit anyone.  They get their name from their prominent barbels that resemble a cat’s whiskers, but some don’t have that feature.  Some are practically armor plated while others have no scales at all.  They’re everywhere, except Antartica.

Catfish, of course, are not exactly the most attractive fish.  After all, the Daimler SP-250, a peculiar looking British sports care of the early 1960s is sometimes referred to as the “angry catfish.”  Catfish are the Rodney Dangerfield of the fish world – no respect.  Perhaps that is what led to the term “catfishing” coming to denote the creation of a fictional persona on social media.

And, of course, catfish are used in humor.

What’s the difference between a lawyer and a catfish?
One’s a cold-blooded slimy bottom-feeder…….the other one’s a fish.

National Catfish Day is a bit more focused on farm-raised catfish.  At least in the U.S. they’re typically channel catfish, which are native to lower Canada, the eastern and northern U.S. and parts of northern Mexico.  They’re omnivores, pretty much eating whatever is around.

It’s usually the case that wild caught fish taste better than farmed fish, but in the case of the catfish that’s not the case.  In the wild they’re typically feeding off muddy bottoms, much like the lawyers mentioned above.  That often gives them a muddy flavor.  The farm-raised catfish, on the other hand, live in cleaner water and are fed floating food pellets.

The Swampwater Drink

The choice of Swampwater as Drink of the Day should be pretty self-evident when we’re talking about catfish.  After all, they love the stuff, or at least the kind found in swamps rather than your drinking glass.  And there’s even an interesting story behind it.

Back in the 1970s, during the best-forgotten Dark Ages of drinking when we got such monstrosities as the Harvey Wallbanger, the sales of many fine spirits tumbled.  Among that group was Chartreuse, the iconic spirit we celebrate every May 16 for World Chartreuse Day.  That probably didn’t sit so well with the monks who had been making the stuff for hundreds of years.

Enter the U.S. marketing team.  They invented Swampwater as a simple drink containing Chartreuse along with pineapple and lime juice.  And they promoted it with a branded mason jar for drinking, complete with alligator mascot.  In fact, they targeted getting college students to batch it up by the gallon, specifying one bottle for that quantity.  On top of that a Swampwater party kit was available for $4.95, including 12 branded drinking jars, branded napkins, postcard invitations and a floor-sized party game.  Yes, it was the ‘70s.  You know the situation is dire when one of your taglines is “more bang than a Wallbanger.”

As questionable as its origins may be, various bartenders since then have applied their skills to raise it another level.  Changing the proportions to make it a bit smaller but more potent, or adding other flavors, the basic Chartreuse and pineapple combination is a good one.  One of our favorite variations is the Piña Verde that we mixed to celebrate the premier of Gilligan’s Island.



A recipe created during the 1970s by the US marketing team for Chartreuse, the Swampwater is a tasty drink combining Chartreuse and pineapple juice. Targeting younger drinkers, aka college students, the materials featured an alligator mascot. And various taglines such as "there's a little green fire in every sip of swampwater."
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  • oz Green Chartreuse
  • 6 oz pineapple Juice
  • ½ oz Fresh lime juice


  • Add all ingredients to a glass, mason jar, or whatever else you feel like drinking from.
  • Add ice and stir.
  • Drink.


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