Women appear to become more impaired than men after drinking equivalent amounts of alcohol, achieving higher blood alcohol concentrations even when doses are adjusted for body weight. This finding may be attributable in part to gender differences in total body water content. Men and women appear to eliminate approximately the same total amount of alcohol per unit body weight per hour. However, women seem to eliminate significantly more alcohol per unit of lean body mass per hour than men. Some studies report that women are more susceptible than men to alcohol-related impairment of cognitive performance, especially in tasks involving delayed memory or divided attention functions. Psychomotor performance impairment, however, does not appear to be affected by gender. This article provides an overview of alcohol metabolism (pharmacokinetics) and reviews recent studies on gender differences in alcohol absorption, distribution, elimination, and impairment. Speculation that gender differences in alcohol pharmacokinetics or alcohol-induced performance impairment may be caused by the menstrual cycle and variations in female sex hormones are discussed. It is concluded that the menstrual cycle is unlikely to influence alcohol pharmacokinetics.