Abstract Cross-sectional and longitudinal population studies have provided a considerable corpus of evidence for an inverse association between light to moderate alcohol intake and both coronary artery disease and stroke. The formulation of balanced public health advice on the basis of such studies, however, needs to take into account the full spectrum of the effects of alcohol on the cardiovascular system, particularly its equally well documented effect to increase level of blood pressure and prevalence of hypertension. In this review, the broader implications of the association of alcohol with hypertension are discussed, principally in the context of the effect of higher levels of alcohol consumption to increase ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke, left ventricular hypertrophy, congestive cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death.