In the past decade, a sense of urgency has started to pervade alcohol regulation in South Africa. The burden of alcohol-related mortality and morbidity is among the highest in the world, and its effects are made worse by persistent socio-economic and structural inequalities. Moreover, alcohol is also a principle risk factor for infectious and chronic diseases, as well as a tenacious barrier to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Its consumption and negative externalities have therefore become a public health and development crisis. This is despite alcohol's significant contribution to the South African national economy and individual livelihoods signalling an entrenched site of tension in alcohol regulation. However, while liquor has indubitably pernicious consequences, it does also provide a critical vantage point to further geographical engagements with the South African city and contemporary development debates. In so doing, the novel empirical and conceptual agendas set out in the papers also contribute to a broader engagement with the cultural contexts, meanings and settings of drinking practices in rapidly changing urban spaces of the Global South.