Most empirical approaches to defining patterns of adolescent alcohol consumption focus on frequency of drunkenness. In an attempt to define patterns of drinking in a more comprehensive way, the present study used measures of social context in addition to frequency and quantity of alcohol use. Subjects' scores on frequency, quantity and five social context variables were cluster analyzed separately for males and females. Results yielded four socially appropriate drinking patterns and three problem drinking patterns (two for males and one for females). Socially appropriate patterns for both sexes were light drinkers, light party drinkers, family drinkers and dating drinkers. Problem drinking patterns included school drinkers and solitary/stranger drinkers for males, and solitary/school drinkers for females. These groups of subjects showed significant differences on reasons for drinking and on drinking consequences even after differences due to frequency and quantity were statistically controlled. Effects of drinking primarily attributable to frequency and quantity appeared to be limited to differences concerning the physiological effects of alcohol.