AIMS: To investigate which motives young adolescents indicate for first-time alcohol consumption and whether these motives are linked to risky drinking. METHODS: Logistic regressions were used based on a nationally representative sample of 1,654 11- to 14-year-olds who had consumed alcohol at least once. RESULTS: 'To toast' (42.5%), 'to find out what effect it would have' (36.4%), and 'to have more fun at a party' (31.0%) were most frequently indicated as motives. Boys indicated curiosity about the effect more often than girls who instead more frequently indicated coping motives. Those who had their first drink 'to have more fun at a party' or 'because it was exciting' had a higher likelihood of risky drinking. Moreover, those who indicated depression as a motive were three times more likely to have 5 or more drinks on a single occasion. CONCLUSIONS: Information on young people's motives for first-time drinking appears to play a significant role in primary prevention, e.g. to prevent risky drinking or alcohol-related problems later in life by postponing alcohol use.