AIMS: The aim of this study was to assess the impact of cues that signal the alcoholic strength of a beverage on drinking rate in young social drinkers. METHODS: In Experiment 1, two groups of young social drinkers (n=20 per group) consumed a lager-based drink containing either 3% or 7% alcohol-by-volume. The pattern of drinking behaviour was observed, and drinking time was recorded. Self-reported mood was measured across the session, and participants also provided ratings of the drinks' sensory and hedonic properties. Experiment 2 replicated Experiment 1, but used a within-subjects design (n=12). RESULTS: In both experiments, participants took significantly longer to consume the 7% drink compared with the 3% drink, and the total inter-sip interval was longer for the 7% drink. These effects were most closely related to the participants' changing estimates of alcohol strength across the test session, alongside concomitant changes in various aspects of self-reported mood. Sensory and hedonic evaluations of the drinks did not affect drinking behaviour in either experiment. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that the consumption rate of an alcoholic beverage can be modulated by its alcohol content, and that the perceived pharmacological effect of the alcohol serves as an effective signal to alter drinking behaviour.