This study investigated the relationship between alcohol consumption and cognitive performance in two culturally diverse community-based populations. METHODS. A cross-sectional analysis was used including Japanese Americans (n = 1,836) and Caucasians (n = 2,581) aged 65 and older. Cognitive performance was measured using the Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument (CASI) (0 to 100 point scale) and reaction time. RESULTS. Multivariate analysis revealed significant cultural and gender differences with cognitive performance. Compared to abstainers, Caucasian drinkers scored higher than Japanese American drinkers on the CASI (adjusted means = 93.4 versus 91.6). In contrast, Japanese American drinkers scored faster than Caucasian drinkers on choice reaction time (adjusted means = 505 versus 579 milliseconds). DISCUSSION. Results showed that current drinking was associated with better cognition in both the Caucasian and Japanese American groups. Longitudinal studies are needed to support the possible protective effects of alcohol on cognition and explore whether culture may modify this apparent benefit.