Abstract Microvessels, the main components of the blood–brain barrier (BBB) are vulnerable to oxidative damage during alcohol-induced stress. Alcohol produces oxidative damage within the vessels and in the brain. Using our animal model of catheter implant into the common carotid artery (CCA), we trace the footprints of alcohol-induced oxidative damage and inflammatory process at the BBB and into the brain. The uniqueness of the finding is that ethanol causes oxidative damage in all neurovascular components by activating NADPH oxidase and inducible nitric oxide synthase in the brain. It is not the oxidants but the ethanol that traverses through the BBB because we found that the highly reactive peroxynitrite does not cross the BBB. Thus, oxidative damage is caused at the site of oxidant production in the microvessels and in the brain. Our data indicate that acetaldehyde (the primary metabolite of ethanol) is the inducer/activator of these enzymes that generate oxidants in brain neurovascular cells. Evidence for alcohol-induced BBB damage is indicated by the alterations of the tight junction protein occludin in intact microvessels. Importantly, we demonstrate that the site of BBB oxidative damage is also the site of immune cells aggregation in the microvessels, which paves the path for inflammatory footprints. These findings reveal the underlying mechanisms that ethanol-elicited BBB oxidative damage initiates the brain vascular inflammatory process, which ultimately leads to neuroinflammation.