Blaikie et al's (1994; 2003) multi-disciplinary, political ecological approach to risk, vulnerability and coping with respect to natural hazards has received widespread academic attention. However, while this structuralist approach has been applied to HIV/AIDS as "long-wave disaster" (see Barnett and Blaikie 1992), the approach may also help question the constitution of the multiple hazards relating to behavioural or lifestyle risks, such as drinking alcohol. As such, this paper argues for the utility of Blaikie et al's "disaster" approach to question the relationships between alcohol control, development and poverty in South Africa's Western Cape region. The purpose of this is twofold: first to mark out a research agenda that considers the qualitative and complex interweaving of development aspirations and realities with poverty in relation to alcohol consumption as "disaster". Second, to develop an analytical framework that enables structuralist explanations and post-structuralist interpretations to speak to each other in ways that challenge stereotypes of risk and risk-taking. With the recent ratification of the WHO's Global Strategy on alcohol, the alcohol control agenda is gathering momentum in the Global South. However, this momentum also marks out research gaps, in which multi-facetted structures of risk should be explored in situ. This paper thus aims to mark out areas of research priority that will be taken up in subsequent works.