Background There is concern around alcohol consumption in mid to later life yet little understanding about what influences this behaviour. No previous research has explored the extent to which adults in mid to later life may be exposed to alcohol references in the media. This project aimed to determine the frequency of alcohol references on radio stations with a high proportion of listeners in mid to later life. Methods Content analysis of alcohol references on four popular UK music-based radio stations with a high proportion of listeners aged 55–64 years over three time points. Results Alcohol references occur frequently, but vary by time of year and type of radio station. When alcohol is mentioned its consumption is portrayed as the norm, without negative consequences. On three commercial stations, the majority of mentions came from advertising, whereas on BBC Radio 2 nearly all references were talk-based. All adverts for direct promotion of alcohol were by supermarkets. Alcohol was frequently associated with celebrations, socializing or something to consume for its own sake. Conclusions Adults in the age group 55–64 may be exposed to references to alcohol that could serve to reinforce norms of consumption of alcohol and promote purchases of cheap alcohol.