Craft Distilling 101 with North Shore Distillery

by Katje Sabin (mamagotcha)

Tucked in a cluster of small industrial buildings between a freeway and a field, amid loading docks and drainage ponds, is a tiny storefront with a half-barrel of herbs and cheerful little holiday lights in front. Just off I-94 in Lake County, about 28 miles north of O’Hare, you’ll find the tasting room and production facility of North Shore Distillery, Illinois’ very first post-Prohibition maker of hand-crafted spirits.

I climbed out of the car and listened to trucks downshifting in the distance, with a counterpoint of small birds happily celebrating the fact that they’ve just survived Chicago’s worst winter in recorded history. I walked across the asphalt under the weak spring sunshine, not sure what to expect: a rickety Rube Goldberg-style tangle of pipes and flasks? Big oak barrels and good ol’ boys in trucker caps and overalls? A brisk and businesslike sterile laboratory? I am clueless, but North Shore Distillery’s co-owner Sonja Kassebaum has kindly offered to educate me in the ways of small-batch distilling, and I’m reporting for my first (and only) day of class.

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Sonja’s Cocktail Recipes

The following are recipes for cocktail creations by Sonja Kassebaum of North Shore Distillery.

Violet Fizz. Photo Credit: Cory Dewald Photography
Violet Fizz. Photo Credit: Cory Dewald Photography

Violet Fizz

Sonja created this custom cocktail for the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Orchid & Spirits event in March 2014.


1 1/2 oz. Sol Chamomile Citrus Vodka
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. Creme de Violette
1/4 oz. simple syrup
Club soda


Shake first four ingredients with ice, strain into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Top with club soda and stir briefly. Garnish with a fresh violet, if available, or a lemon curl.

Sol 76

One old-style gin drink is the French 75. Swap the gin for vodka, and you get the French 76. Here’s the North Shore variation.


1 1/2 oz. Sol Chamomile Citrus
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup or ginger syrup (1:1)
2 oz. dry sparkling wine


Shake first three ingredients with ice, strain into chilled champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine, garnish with a lemon curl.

BebboBebbo Cocktail

“One of my favorites from Ted’s book,” Sonya noted. She’s talking about “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie – 100 Rediscovered Recipes and the Stories Behind Them” by Ted Haigh (aka Dr. Cocktail).


1 1/2 oz. Distiller’s Gin No. 6
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. honey syrup (2:1)
1/2 oz. fresh orange juice
1 dash Angostura Bitters


Shake ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Nordic Mule


2 oz. Aquavit
1/2 lime
Ginger beer


Squeeze half lime into tall glass; drop remains into glass. Add aquavit, fill with ice, top with ginger beer. Garnish with lime wedge.