OBJECTIVES: To review the effect of specific types of alcoholic drink on coronary risk. DESIGN: Systematic review of ecological, case-control, and cohort studies in which specific associations were available for consumption of beer, wine, and spirits and risk of coronary heart disease. SUBJECTS: 12 ecological, three case-control, and 10 separate prospective cohort studies. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Alcohol consumption and relative risk of morbidity and mortality from coronary heart disease. RESULTS: Most ecological studies suggested that wine was more effective in reducing risk of mortality from heart disease than beer or spirits. Taken together, the three case-control studies did not suggest that one type of drink was more cardioprotective than the others. Of the 10 prospective cohort studies, four found a significant inverse association between risk of heart disease and moderate wine drinking, four found an association for beer, and four for spirits. CONCLUSIONS: Results from observational studies, where alcohol consumption can be linked directly to an individual's risk of coronary heart disease, provide strong evidence that all alcoholic drinks are linked with lower risk. Thus, a substantial portion of the benefit is from alcohol rather than other components of each type of drink.