Recent work suggests that stomach-derived hormone ghrelin receptor (GHS-R1A) antagonism may reduce motivational aspects of ethanol intake. In the current study we hypothesized that the endogenous GHS-R1A agonist ghrelin modulates alcohol reward mechanisms. For this purpose ethanol-induced conditioned place preference (CPP), ethanol-induced locomotor stimulation and voluntary ethanol consumption in a two-bottle choice drinking paradigm were examined under conditions where ghrelin and its receptor were blocked, either using ghrelin knockout (KO) mice or the specific ghrelin receptor (GHS-R1A) antagonist "JMV2959". We showed that ghrelin KO mice displayed lower ethanol-induced CPP than their wild-type (WT) littermates. Consistently, when injected during CPP-acquisition, JMV2959 reduced CPP-expression in C57BL/6 mice. In addition, ethanol-induced locomotor stimulation was lower in ghrelin KO mice. Moreover, GHS-R1A blockade, using JMV2959, reduced alcohol-stimulated locomotion only in WT but not in ghrelin KO mice. When alcohol consumption and preference were assessed using the two-bottle choice test, both genetic deletion of ghrelin and pharmacological antagonism of the GHS-R1A (JMV2959) reduced voluntary alcohol consumption and preference. Finally, JMV2959-induced reduction of alcohol intake was only observed in WT but not in ghrelin KO mice. Taken together, these results suggest that ghrelin neurotransmission is necessary for the stimulatory effect of ethanol to occur, whereas lack of ghrelin leads to changes that reduce the voluntary intake as well as conditioned reward by ethanol. Our findings reveal a major, novel role for ghrelin in mediating ethanol behavior and add to growing evidence that ghrelin is a key mediator of the effects of multiple abused drugs. \textcopyright 2013 Elsevier Inc.