North Shore Distillery is the first craft distillery in Illinois, established in 2004 by a creative husband and wife team with a deep passion for spirits and cocktails. We make incredibly delicious spirits by hand – spirits that are not possible on a mass production scale – with fresh, original flavors.

We’re an artisan distillery

We make things by hand. Ourselves, with a small team of fellow spirit and cocktail lovers. We infuse every bottle with a bit of our passion, knowledge and artistry. You won’t find our spirits all over the world, or even all over the US – you’ll only find them in the Midwestern US. Despite that fact, our highly acclaimed vodkas, gins, rums and aquavit are loved by spirits fans around the world and sought out by those in the know.

Our owners are directly involved in the day-to-day operations, whether running the still, filling barrels or overseeing a bottling run, or working with bar, restaurant and retail partners, or speaking directly with our customers who visit our tasting room. Come visit us and experience our art in person.

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!