Objectives: This paper presents the synthesis of findings from a literature review study of drinking cultures across five West European countries (France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the UK), examining the nature and features of drinking typologies before proposing a new dimensional approach. Study design: The study incorporated a systematic literature search covering the period 1980-2010 for literature from each of the five countries. Methods: Researchers reviewed abstracts and selected relevant material, leading to the inclusion of 203 articles from database searches plus 26 records from other sources. A summary of key findings are presented here. Intercoder reliability checks were performed to ensure consistency in inclusion in the review according to pre-ordained selection criteria. The review was further supplemented by the inclusion of gray literature including policy documents obtained from a range of sources. Results: It was found that sociocultural contexts have a major influence on drinking cultures, and this is an area in which there have been dramatic changes over the past 30 years. Differences were found between the countries in terms of drinking cultures, the way in which alcohol is viewed, and how alcohol-related policy and practice operates. However, there seems to be an increasing homogenization of drinking cultures across many countries, strongly influenced by Anglo-US cultural zeitgeist. Modern drinking patterns have emerged, offering a complex and often overlapping schema of drinking typologies. Conclusions: The study suggests that the wet-dry dichotomy is no longer relevant and that a revised version of a more recent dimensional approach featuring three dimensions - hedonism, function and control - may be better placed to describe and measure contemporary drinking cultures.