Epidemiological evidence indicates that moderate alcohol consumption reduces the incidence of heart disease. Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) is a key regulator of vascular homeostasis and myocardial functions through the controlled production of nitric oxide (*NO). These studies were conducted to determine if the apparent alcohol-associated cardioprotection is mediated, in part, through modulation of the eNOS protein and activity in the cardiovascular system. Rats were fed alcohol and eNOS protein and *NO production were evaluated at the end of 8 weeks. Myocardial and vascular function was assessed ex vivo in a subset of animals. Moderate alcohol improved postischemic myocardial systolic and diastolic function and attenuated the postischemic reduction in coronary vascular resistance. Moderate alcohol also enhanced maximum vascular relaxation by 26 +/- 0.2% and increased plasma *NO production concomitant with a greater than 2.5-fold increase in eNOS protein. Higher levels of alcohol impaired maximum vascular relaxation by 22 +/- 0.1%. These results suggest that moderate alcohol improves postischemic myocardial functions and increases *NO production by vascular endothelium. An increase in *NO may explain, at least in part, the cardioprotective benefits of moderate alcohol consumption.