Spirited artisans • Distillers & spirit lovers • Cocktail nerds

  • Small in Scale – we’ve definitely grown and are still growing, but we make our spirits 60 gallons at a time with a single copper pot still.
  • True Artisans – we do most things by hand – peeling fresh lemons for each batch of gin, loading our still 5 gallons at a time, bottling one bottle at a time. We’ve won lots of awards and acclaim for our spirits, so we like to think we’re pretty good, too.
  • Nerds – we ask lots of questions, we love to explore and to experiment, and we know a ton about botanicals, spirits of all kinds, and cocktails.
  • Experimental – we love finding the best herbs, fruits, spices, grains and other raw materials, and turning them into mainstream, and not-so-mainstream spirits and cocktails. Just check out our limited releases for proof.
  • Hosts and Entertainers – we love sharing good times and good drinks with others, in fact its one of our favorite pastimes. Just stop by our tasting room, or one of our events, to meet our amazing team and share a toast with us.

You’ll only find our spirits in the Midwestern US. Unlike many other distilleries, we view being a regional craft distillery as our destination, not merely as a path to entering the spirits market. We’re not trying to build up a company to sell it, and our founders are personally involved in all aspects of our company – we like it that way.

It Started with These Two

Derek & Sonja Kassebaum started North Shore Distillery in 2004, selling their first bottles in 2005.  They’d already shown their impulsive streak by eloping in Las Vegas after dating for only 2-1/2 months some years back, and it was time for a new adventure. They wanted something more from life – something they could be passionate about and look forward to working on most days.  Something they could do together.

Always the more entrepreneurial of the two, Derek had the initial inspiration to start a distillery.  Once the idea grabbed him, he got to work and designed the process, initial equipment setup, and space. He researched distilling equipment, processes, history and techniques extensively, and met with many advisors along the way. And of course, there were (and are) many, many experiments.


Derek Kassebaum

Master Distiller, Co-Founder & Co-Owner

Derek holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines, and an MBA from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He also has read a ton of books, and experimented exhaustively with a wide range of grains, herbs, spices and fruits over the years. He has designed every aspect of the distillery’s manufacturing, and loves the process of layering and building flavors and smells through infusion, distillation and aging. He is the creative force behind all of the distillery’s amazing spirits.

Sonja Kassebaum

Chief Cocktail Nerd, Co-Founder & Co-Owner

Sonja holds a BA in Mathematics from the University of Colorado, and a JD from the University of Michigan. She has also read a ton of cocktail history and recipe books, and experimented exhaustively with a wide range of spirits, tools and techniques over the years. She too loves the process of layering and building flavors, and elevating a cocktail into an experience in a glass. She is the lead creative force behind the distillery’s marketing, tasting room cocktail menu, events and classes.

Ethel the Still

Still #1, Distillery Star

Ethel the Still was handmade and custom made for us in southern Germany to our specifications. Derek worked with the still manufacturer to design her, and she has several custom elements that make her unique. Ethel is truly one-of-a-kind. Her capacity is 250 liters, or the equivalent of about 60 gallons. She is one of the smaller stills in commercial production today – but she is versatile and skilled, and Derek and she know how to make boozy magic together. She loves making spirits, it is what she was born to do!

Visit Us or Meet Us

Want to find out more about our company and our spirits? In addition to all the events and activities at the distillery’s tasting room & cocktail bar, we participate in, host and organize a range of cocktail classes, cocktail pairing dinners, spirited tasting events, and other activities throughout the areas where we sell our spirits. We post many of our events here on our website, such as:

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