The progress on understanding the pharmacological basis of ethanol’s discriminative stimulus effects has been substantial, but appears to have plateaued in the past decade. Further, the cross-species translational efforts are clear in laboratory animals, but have been minimal in human subject studies. Research findings clearly demonstrate that ethanol produces a compound stimulus with primary activity through GABA and glutamate receptor systems, particularly ionotropic receptors, with additional contribution from serotonergic mechanisms. Further progress should capitalize on chemogenetic and optogenetic techniques in laboratory animals to identify the neural circuitry involved in mediating the discriminative stimulus effects of ethanol. These infrahuman studies can be guided by in vivo imaging of human brain circuitry mediating ethanol’s subjective effects. Ultimately, identifying receptors systems, as well as where they are located within brain circuitry, will transform the use of drug discrimination procedures to help identify possible treatment or prevention strategies for alcohol use disorder.