Much of the academic literature on alcohol-based leisure focuses on the pleasures of hedonism and youthful cultural exploration in environments free from the prescriptions, pressures and routines of everyday life. In this article – in which we present data from our ongoing ethnographic research exploring the experiences and attitudes of young British tourists in the Spanish resort of Magaluf on the island of Majorca – we argue that the standard liberal social-scientific image of youth leisure is naive and misrepresents its variegated reality. Our research indicates that many young British tourists gain little contentment from their holiday in the sun. Rather than embarking on a leisure experience composed of boundless freedom, choice, indulgence, excess and that is indicative of personal consumer sovereignty, many of our interviewees could identify the regimented and commodified nature of alcohol-based tourism. Rather than satisfaction, they felt an imprecise dissatisfaction. Drawing upon elements of psychoanalytic theory, we argue that underneath our interviewees’ accounts of drunkenness and promiscuity lies an obdurate but imprecise sense of lack. Yet, it is precisely this absence which only recharges their motivation to do more of the same the year after in similar destinations, thus confirming the presence, power and domination of consumer sovereignty.