This paper compares and contrasts quantifiable data and motivational accounts obtained from in-depth interviews with 66 persistent young adult offenders, most of whom were also heavy drinkers. It not only demonstrates how important technique and setting are in producing results but shows how misguided a primary focus on alcohol as a key variable can be if the consumption of other psychoactive drugs is ignored. The increasing significance of alcohol's entanglement in poly-drug use is thus highlighted. Acquisitive crime, violence and alcohol and drug use may well be connected, particularly in the lives of persistent young adult offenders, but as this study shows the linkages prove extremely complex and difficult to describe fully. British criminology, having largely retreated from qualitative, ethnographic community-based studies of subculture and deviant lifestyles, is in danger of losing touch with these issues. This is worrying not just for criminology but also because authoritative explanations are unavailable to challenge the endless allusions to 'alcohol plus young men equals violent crime' which forms a key part of the law and order discourses that blame youth for society's ills.