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August 21, 2017


North Shore Distillery

They start with the best herbs, fruits, spices and grains they can find and turn them into award-winning distilled spirits and cocktails.

in Illinois Makers, Food & Beverages
November 01, 2017

| words

Meet Derek and Sonja Kassebaum, outlaw distillers.

Well, maybe they’re not outlaws seeing that in their past lives Derek was a chemical engineer and Sonja was an attorney. They did, however, buck the system and high-profile careers to live the distillers’ life. Or as TimeOut called them “The OG of Local Spirits.” 

Self-proclaimed nerds who love working with their hands, Derek and Sonja were searching for more in life, something they could be passionate about and look forward to doing every day. Distilling spirits obviously fit the bill. Since everything they make, from their gins and vodkas to their artisan absinthe and aquavit, are truly top shelf. And they have the awards to prove it.

What if you’re more of the cocktail type instead of the straight booze type? No need to worry. Sonja’s endless experimenting and crafting of new cocktails made with house spirits, is your reward. New recipes are skillfully mixed and poured almost weekly. Of course, the classics are expertly prepared and served as well. 

But enough about Derek and Sonja. No story about North Shore Distillery is complete without talking about Ethel — the heart of the operation. All spirits that are made at North Shore Distillery spend some quality time with her. You see, Ethel is a still, custom-built and handmade in Southern Germany. (Ethel was named for Sonja’s grandmother and for the wonderful ethyl alcohol she makes. The still, not the grandmother.) Derek worked with the manufacturer to design Ethel to his exacting standards. (Remember, the guy was a chemical engineer.) The result — a curvy copper and steel beauty with a capacity of 60 gallons. Small by commercial standards, but who wants to be like the big guys. Not Ethel.

So the next time you’re in the mood for some quality spirits and cocktails, make your way to North Shore Distillery. Derek and Sonja (and Ethel) love to share their passion with others. As they put it, “We are in the happiness business.” We couldn’t agree more. 

(Incidentally, for those who are curious, you can follow Ethel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. According to her profile she has been told she has an attitude.)

Discover more Illinois Artisans at Illinois Made.


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