Alcohol intake is a risk factor for breast cancer, but the association between alcohol and mortality among breast cancer survivors is poorly understood. We examined the association between alcohol intake from all sources, assessed by cognitive lifetime drinking history, and all-cause and breast cancer mortality among women with breast cancer (N = 1,097) who participated in a population-based case-control study. Vital status was ascertained through 2006 using the National Death Index. Using Cox proportional hazards models, we computed hazard ratios for all-cause and breast cancer mortality in association with alcohol intake. We examined lifetime volume and intensity (drinks per drinking day) of alcohol consumption as well as drinking status during various life periods. Analyses were stratified by menopausal status. After adjustment for total intake, postmenopausal women with consumption of four or more drinks per drinking day over their lifetimes were nearly three times more likely to die from any cause compared to abstainers (HR 2.94, 95 % CI 1.31, 6.62). There was a similar but non-significant association with breast cancer mortality (HR 2.68, 95 % CI 0.94, 7.67). Postmenopausal women who drank one drink or fewer per drinking day between menarche and first birth had a significantly decreased hazard of all-cause (HR 0.54, 95 % CI 0.31, 0.95) and breast cancer mortality (HR 0.27, 95 % CI 0.09, 0.77). Premenopausal breast cancer survival was not associated with drinking intensity. We observed no associations between drinking status or total volume of alcohol intake and breast cancer or all-cause mortality. High-intensity alcohol consumption may be associated with decreased survival in postmenopausal women with breast cancer. Low-intensity alcohol consumption between menarche and first birth may be inversely associated with all-cause and breast cancer mortality; this period may be critical for development of and survival from breast cancer. Intensity of alcohol intake may be a more important factor than absolute volume of intake on survival in women with breast cancer.