The Campground

Every time she uploads an image to Instagram or to Tumblr, I think to myself it’s ridiculous to think the world doesn’t know this woman’s photographs. Carolina Mariana is one of my favorite photographers, and she is quickly becoming one of my favorite people.

Recently, she showed me photos of The Campground the backyard shed-cum-speakeasy of her friends, Cristin Llewellyn and Christopher Ciesiel. Though it’s still a work-in-progress, I’ve been granted permission to share a peek here. And I’m thrilled to do so.

“When Cristin and I purchased our gorgeous 1920s Arts & Crafts bungalow nearly two years ago, we were stuck with this prefabricated Home Depot shed in our backyard. Not of the ‘let’s-see-how-many-yard-tools-we-can-collect’ set, we decided to turn it into something more useful for us.”

Christin and Christopher met in 2010 at the now defunct cocktail establishment R Bar in Kansas City’s West Bottoms. There, as their passion for one another grew, so too did their passion for a quality cocktail. They were quick to befriend R Bar’s Shawn Moriarty — head bartender and apparent matchmaker — and Christopher quickly became fixated on crafting the perfect cocktail. “With the mindset that practice never makes perfect, I experiment with various recipes and spirits. I’ve become so passionate about my hobby that I could see it becoming a career someday.”

Finding themselves in a postage-stamp-sized home, the idea of retrofitting their shed to add some square footage to their living space was an attractive notion, to say the least. By combining their love of cocktails and an endless desire to host friends and loved ones, their neighborhood’s first known speakeasy, lovingly called “The Campground,” was born.

Salvaged wood from hardware store scrap piles and the Kansas cattle yards make up much of The Campground’s interior. As a nod to the hunting lodges of the past, they’ve outfitted the space with authentic Native American throws, animal skulls, outdoor survival books, and old camp lanterns. Cristin trimmed old US military blankets and belts to dress the windows.

Christopher said The Campground has become their proving ground for entertaining. Cristin makes delicious small plates, and he mans the bar. And from what Carolina tells me, they’re proving to be excellent hosts.

I asked Christopher for a new cocktail recipe.

“If you’ve never delved into the world of proper absinthe, St. George Spirits does it right. This cocktail is simple, and it’ll have you seeing the green fairy in no time. Two, and you’ll be betting your buddy you can sever off your ear.”

1 1/2 oz Bulleit Rye
1 1/2 oz St. George Absenthe Verte
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup (2:1 .. 2 cups sugar + 1 cup water)
Shake with great vigor and strain into a rocks glass with a pile of, well, rocks.

Special thanks to Christopher and Cristin for allowing me to share the story of their very cool space.

Thanks to Carolina Mariana for sharing her photos.