We examined the relation of alcoholic beverage type and risk of myocardial infarction (MI) in a case-control study among 340 cases of MI and an equal number of age-, sex-, and community-matched controls. Alcohol consumption was estimated using a food frequency questionnaire, with alcohol drinkers defined as those consuming > or = 1/2 drink/day on average of any alcoholic beverage. Beer, wine, and liquor drinkers had at least half of their consumption from 1 beverage type. Fasting venous blood samples were obtained and analyzed for lipid profiles. Compared with nondrinkers, after adjustment for age and sex, reductions in risk of MI were similar for regular drinkers of any type of alcoholic beverage (relative risk [RR] 0.54; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.37 to 0.79; p = 0.001), beer (RR 0.55; 95% CI 0.31 to 0.97; p <0.05), wine (RR 0.48; 95% CI 0.27 to 0.87; p <0.05), and liquor (RR 0.59; 95% CI 0.38 to 0.91; p <0.05) drinkers. Comparable benefits remained apparent even after multivariate adjustment for a wide range of nonlipid coronary risk factors. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels were significantly higher in all 4 beverage categories when compared with levels in nondrinkers, and as expected, adjustment for total HDL, a major direct effect of alcohol, substantially attenuated the protective effect in all 4 beverage categories. Relative risks were 0.94 for any beverage, 1.09 for beer, 0.97 for wine, and 0.83 for liquor after further adjustment. This strongly suggests that the protective effect of each beverage type is, in large part, mediated by increased HDL. These data indicate that regular consumption of small to moderate amounts of alcoholic beverages, regardless of the type, reduces the risk of MI, and further suggest that there is benefit, in large part, from increases in HDL levels.