Alcohol is the most consumed drug worldwide. Both acute and chronic alcohol use have been associated with cardiac arrhythmias, in particular atrial fibrillation, or so-called 'holiday heart syndrome'. Epidemiological, clinical and experimental studies have attempted to elucidate the mechanisms involved in this association. However, because most of these studies have shown conflicting results, the connection between ethanol and atrial arrhythmias remains controversial. Historical, epidemiological and pharmacological aspects of alcohol, as well as recent concepts on atrial fibrillation are reviewed. We then examine the literature and provide a critical point of view on the still elusive association between alcohol and atrial fibrillation.