Quality • Originality • Consistency

  • Quality – we use the best ingredients to make delicious, award-winning spirits. We have a deep understanding of each grain, herb, spice and fruit we use, and the art of balancing them to create beauty in a glass.
  • Originality – we create spirits that we love. We never blindly copy what others do or what the “trends” say we should be doing. We’re known for the incredible flavors and textures we create in spirit form, using surprising and delightful combinations.
  • Consistency – we ensure that each bottle of our spirits tastes as you would expect it to taste, which is harder when using fresh fruits, herbs and spices. We’re relentlessly experimental until we master our process for each new spirit, and we keep samples of every batch to ensure the integrity of our products.

We are Midwestern Artisans
You’ll only find our spirits in the Midwestern US. Unlike some other distilleries, we view being a regional craft distillery as our destination, not merely as a path to entering the spirits market. We are true artisans – we do most things by hand, peeling fresh lemons for each batch of gin, distilling 60 gallons at at a time, bottling each spirit one bottle at a time. 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.

Our Founders & Owners

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. They loved spirits and cocktails already, so when this idea arose, it became their destiny.

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.

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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!

Drink Better with Us

You can find our spirits around the Midwestern US at a variety of bars, restaurants and retail outlets. If you don’t see them, please ask! We participate in, organize and host a range of tasting events, pairing dinners and cocktail classes around the area, and we have events going on at our tasting room as well. Here is our current event calendar, with the next few things we’re doing: