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Photograph of Serena O'Callaghan, bartender and general manager at Windsor cocktail bar Jungle Boy
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Meet Serena O'Callaghan from Jungle Boy

Get to know one of Melbourne's best bartenders

By Fred Siggins

Age: 27
Bar: Boston Sub's Jungle Boy
Position: General manager
Years in the game: Ten
Favourite drink: Jasmine cocktail
Favourite bar: Bar Ampere
Best late-night feed: Supper Inn
Best/worst pickup line you’ve heard: “I gave someone a tab card printed on a seven of hearts and he said 'Are you sure this is mine? Because you just stole my heart'.”

Serena O’Callaghan is general manager of Jungle Boy, a tiny Tiki bar hidden in a sandwich shop on Chapel Street. The daughter of a real estate agent and a diplomat, Serena’s love of people drew her to hospitality from a young age. “I’ve gotten by talking shit, and people somehow have a good time,” she jokes. Recently nominated for an Australian Liquor Industry Award as Bar Manager of the Year, her experience has paid off with national recognition.

O’Callaghan started her career as a hostess at TGI Fridays, and her way with people quickly earned her a coveted spot on the bar. She loved the challenge of memorising recipes, multi-tasking and entertaining guests. Within a few months, she was managing both the bar at Fridays and at the excellent CBD cocktail parlour 1806 under the watchful eye of cocktail guru Sebastian Reaburn, who became her most important mentor. “When he first handed me the keys, I told him I wasn’t ready. I was only 19. But he gave me a piece of advice that’s always stuck with me: ‘To be a good manager, you don’t have to be the best at everything. You just have to know who is and keep them happy'.”

O’Callaghan’s Malaysian-Chinese heritage has coloured her approach to drinks. “In Malaysia, we’re grateful for trying food from other cultures, so that’s given me confidence to experiment with flavours. If you don’t try you don’t know.”

Now at Jungle Boy, O’Callaghan relishes the seclusion of her tiny tiki bar. “It’s a bit of an oasis from the hustle and bustle of Chapel Street,” she explains. “You can explain to someone that they’ll walk into a sandwich shop and though a fridge into a bar, and they’ll go ‘yeah, yeah’, but once they actually do it, it’s fun! We say this word a lot: welcome.”

Serena O'Callaghan's signature cocktail

Jungle Boy manager Serena O'Callaghan with her signature cocktail
Photograph: Graham Denholm

The Baloo Buck

40ml Tanqueray gin, 15ml Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, 20ml fresh lemon juice, 60ml fresh watermelon juice

1. Add all ingredients to a tall glass
2. Add crushed ice and stir
3. Cap with more crushed ice
4. Garnish with Vietnamese mint, a watermelon slice, a cherry and a paper parasol.


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