BACKGROUND Despite lower alcohol drinking rates of UK ethnic minority people (excluding Irish) compared with those of the white majority, events of racial discrimination expose ethnic minorities to unique stressors that elevate the risk for escapist drinking. Studies of ethnic density, the geographical concentration of ethnic minorities in an area, have found racism to be less prevalent in areas of increased ethnic density, and this study hypothesises that ethnic minority people living in areas of high ethnic density will report less alcohol use relative to their counterparts, due to decreased experienced racism and increased sociocultural norms. METHODS Multilevel logistic regressions were applied to data from the 1999 and 2004 Health Survey for England linked to ethnic density data from 2001 census. RESULTS Respondents living in non-White area types and areas of higher coethnic density reported decreased odds of being current drinkers relative to their counterparts. A statistically significant reduction in the odds of exceeding sensible drinking recommendations was observed for Caribbeans in Black area types, Africans in areas of higher coethnic density and Indian people living in Indian area types. CONCLUSION Results confirmed a protective ethnic density effect for current alcohol consumption, but showed a less consistent picture of an ethnic density effect for adherence to sensible drinking guidelines. Previous research has shown that alcohol use is increasing among ethnic minorities, and so a greater understanding of alcohol-related behaviour among UK ethnic minority people is important to establish their need for preventive care and advice on safe drinking practices.