Dopamine is a mediator of the stimulant properties of drugs of abuse, including ethanol, in mammals and in the fruit fly Drosophila. The neural substrates for the stimulant actions of ethanol in flies are not known. We show that a subset of dopamine neurons and their targets, through the action of the D1-like dopamine receptor DopR, promote locomotor activation in response to acute ethanol exposure. A bilateral pair of dopaminergic neurons in the fly brain mediates the enhanced locomotor activity induced by ethanol exposure, and promotes locomotion when directly activated. These neurons project to the central complex ellipsoid body, a structure implicated in regulating motor behaviors. Ellipsoid body neurons are required for ethanol-induced locomotor activity and they express DopR. Elimination of DopR blunts the locomotor activating effects of ethanol, and this behavior can be restored by selective expression of DopR in the ellipsoid body. These data tie the activity of defined dopamine neurons to D1-like DopR-expressing neurons to form a neural circuit that governs acute responding to ethanol.