In 2004, fun-loving Derek and Sonja Kasebaum left perfectly good jobs (chemical engineer and lawyer, respectively) to pursue their shared dream of opening Illinois’ first craft distillery since Prohibition. “Ethel,” a curvaceous 60-gallon copper still handmade in southern Germany, produces North Shore Distillery’s gin, rum, whiskey, vodka and French absinthe from fresh ingredients.
Primarily a Midwest-only distributor, the Lake Bluff-based boutique distillery offers weekend tours and happy hours at an on-site bar ($8 a cocktail). Tours ($10) take place Saturdays at 3 p.m. and by appointment, last 60 to 90 minutes, and include tasting opportunities. North Shore has also snagged one of the Beverage Testing Institute’s highest rankings for American gin and is currently the only U.S. producer of aquavit, a Scandinavian spirit perfect for bloody marys. Every bottle Ethel births is hand-corked, and Derrick signs all the labels. Spirits generally cost $30 a bottle; the absinthe goes for $60.
Don’t let the railroad tracks and manufacturing digs fool you into thinking you’re lost. Fire marshal rules dictate that producers of any flammable spirits must be located on the outskirts of town in an industrial park setting.