Background Mitochondrial dysfunction and bioenergetic stress play an important role in the etiology of alcoholic liver disease. Previous studies from our laboratory show that the primary methyl donor S-Adenosylmethionine (SAM) minimizes alcohol-induced disruptions in several mitochondrial functions in the liver. Herein, we expand on these earlier observations to determine whether the beneficial actions of SAM against alcohol toxicity extend to changes in the responsiveness of mitochondrial respiration to inhibition by nitric oxide (NO), induction of the mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT) pore, and the hypoxic state of the liver. Methods For this, male Sprague-Dawley rats were pair-fed control and alcohol-containing liquid diets with and without SAM for 5 weeks and liver hypoxia, mitochondrial respiration, MPT pore induction, and NO-dependent control of respiration were examined. Results Chronic alcohol feeding significantly enhanced liver hypoxia, whereas SAM supplementation attenuated hypoxia in livers of alcohol-fed rats. SAM supplementation prevented alcohol-mediated decreases in mitochondrial state 3 respiration and cytochrome c oxidase activity. Mitochondria isolated from livers of alcohol-fed rats were more sensitive to calcium-mediated MPT pore induction (i.e., mitochondrial swelling) than mitochondria from pair-fed controls, whereas SAM treatment normalized sensitivity for calcium-induced swelling in mitochondria from alcohol-fed rats. Liver mitochondria from alcohol-fed rats showed increased sensitivity to NO-dependent inhibition of respiration compared with pair-fed controls. In contrast, mitochondria isolated from the livers of SAM treated alcohol-fed rats showed no change in the sensitivity to NO-mediated inhibition of respiration. Conclusion Collectively, these findings indicate that the hepato-protective effects of SAM against alcohol toxicity are mediated, in part, through a mitochondrial mechanism involving preservation of key mitochondrial bioenergetic parameters and the attenuation of hypoxic stress.