This paper is a survey of the structure and significance of international trade in alcoholic beverages in the contemporary world economy. It presents data on the level of trade in the main alcoholic beverages for the period since 1970. The constant-dollar value of this trade grew by a factor of 2.1 between 1975 and 1992. It represents approximately one half of the one per cent of the value of world trade in all commodities. This proportion has remained very stable over the past 20 years. International trade in beer, wine and spirits has greatly extended the range of alcoholic beverages available around the world and reduced their cost. It has played a large part in the tendency for convergence in the patterns of alcohol consumption, as countries diversify away from their dependence on locally produced beverages. Traditional spirits-drinking and beer-drinking countries have witnessed very rapid increases in the consumption of wine, while heavy wine drinking countries have seen rapid growth of the consumption of beer. While imported beverages remain relatively unimportant in total consumption of alcoholic beverages, they have played a significant role in the growth and diversification of alcohol consumption in many countries.