AIMS: To review the concept of binge drinking as a measure of risky single occasion drinking (RSOD), to illustrate its differential impact on selected health outcomes and to identify research gaps. METHODS: Narrative literature review with focus on conceptual and methodological differences, trajectories of RSOD and effects of RSOD on fetal outcomes, coronary heart disease (CHD) and injuries. RESULTS: Effects ascribed commonly to RSOD may often be the effects of an undifferentiated mixture of risky single occasions and regular heavy volume drinking, constituted by frequent, successive RSOD. This leads to the problem that additional risks due to RSOD are mis-specified and remain unidentified or underestimated in some cases, such as for injuries or CHD, but are probably overstated for some chronic consequences or for effects of maternal drinking on newborns. CONCLUSION: A stronger focus should be placed upon methods that can differentiate the effects of RSOD from those due to frequent occasions of heavy drinking that result in heavy volume drinking.