Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) is a key enzyme for the production of butanol, ethanol, and isopropanol by the solvent-producing clostridia. Initial studies of ADH in extracts of several strains of Clostridium acetobutylicum and C. beijerinckii gave conflicting molecular properties. A more coherent picture has emerged because of the following results: (i) identification of ADHs with different coenzyme specificities in these species; (ii) discovery of structurally conserved ADHs (type 3) in three solvent-producing species; (iii) isolation of mutants with deficiencies in butanol production and restoration of butanol production with a cloned alcohol/aldehyde dehydrogenase gene; and (iv) resolution of various ‘C. acetobutylicum’ cultures into four species. The three ADH isozymes of C. beijerinckii NRRL B592 have high sequence similarities to ADH-1 of Clostridium sp. NCP 262 (formerly C. acetobutylicum P262) and to the ADH domain of the alcohol/aldehyde dehydrogenase of C. acetobutylicum ATCC 824/DSM 792. The NADH-dependent activity of the ADHs from C. beijerinckii NRRL B592 and the BDHs from C. acetobutylicum ATCC 824 is profoundly affected by the pH of the assay, and the relative importance of NADH and NADPH to butanol production may be misappraised when NAD(P)H-dependent activities were measured at different pH values. The primary/secondary ADH of isopropanol-producing C. beijerinckii is a type-1 enzyme and is highly conserved in Thermoanaerobacter brockii (formerly Thermoanaerobium brockii) and Entamoeba histolytica. Several solvent-forming enzymes (primary ADH, aldehyde dehydrogenase, and 3-hydroxybutyryl-CoA dehydrogenase) are very similar between C. beijerinckii and the species represented by Clostridium sp. NCP 262 and NRRL B643. The realization of such relationships will facilitate the elucidation of the roles of different ADHs because each type of ADH can now be studied in an organism most amenable to experimental manipulations.