This article provides insights into the discourses that legitimate and perpetuate male undergraduate drinking cultures and considers the role of alcohol in communicating hegemonic masculinity within one British university. Taking laddishness as a template of hegemonic masculinity, the article contends that male students’ heavy alcohol use is partially motivated by discourses that position drinking as a ‘normal’ part of studenthood, but also by discourses that reinforce drinking as a ‘laddish’ behaviour or a male preserve. While interviewees recognised the importance of drinking in constructing masculinity, running parallel to this were attempts to disassociate themselves from the extremities of alcohol-induced laddishness and considerations that male peers who drank too much were lesser men. However, in their resistance to these extremities, interviewees demonstrated complicity towards more general attributes of hegemonic masculinity, such as independence and the strength to say no. This highlights the complex and somewhat contradictory processes individuals go through in the construction of gender identities, yet also offers a means through which male undergraduates’ risky alcohol use might be challenged.