The relation between alcohol consumption and incident hypertension is unclear, and most observational studies have not accounted for socioeconomic factors. This study examined the association between alcohol consumption in a diverse group of young adults and incident hypertension over 20 years. Participants (n = 4,711) were from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study cohort, recruited in 1985 (aged 18-30 years) from Birmingham, Alabama; Chicago, Illinois; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Oakland, California. The 20-year incidence of hypertension for never, former, light, moderate, and at-risk drinkers was 25.1%, 31.8%, 20.9%, 22.2%, and 18.8%, respectively (P < 0.001). Race, gender, age, family history of hypertension, body mass index, income, education, and difficulty paying for basics and medical care were associated with hypertension. Adjustment using Cox proportional hazard models revealed no association between baseline alcohol consumption and incident hypertension, except among European-American women in whom any current alcohol consumption was associated with lower risk of incident hypertension. The lack of association between alcohol and hypertension in the majority of this socioeconomically diverse cohort is not definitive. Future studies should include social factors, such as income and education, and consider additional characteristics that may modify or confound associations between alcohol and blood pressure.