Bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder (AUD) have a high rate of comorbidity, more than 50% of individuals with bipolar disorder also receive a diagnosis of AUD in their lifetimes. Although both disorders are heritable, it is unclear if the same genetic factors mediate risk for bipolar disorder and AUD. We examined 733 Costa Rican individuals from 61 bipolar pedigrees. Based on a best estimate process, 32% of the sample met criteria for bipolar disorder, 17% had a lifetime AUD diagnosis, 32% met criteria for lifetime nicotine dependence, and 21% had an anxiety disorder. AUD, nicotine dependence and anxiety disorders were relatively more common among individuals with bipolar disorder than in their non-bipolar relatives. All illnesses were shown to be heritable and bipolar disorder was genetically correlated with AUD, nicotine dependence and anxiety disorders. The genetic correlation between bipolar and AUD remained when controlling for anxiety, suggesting that unique genetic factors influence the risk for comorbid bipolar and AUD independent of anxiety. Our findings provide evidence for shared genetic effects on bipolar disorder and AUD risk. Demonstrating that common genetic factors influence these independent diagnostic constructs could help to refine our diagnostic nosology.