It is seldom that childhood fascinations inspire a career, but for Lucky Dragon bartender Riki Taiga, a 24-year-old with an engaging smile, that was what happened. As a youngster growing up in Japan, China, Taiwan and the U.S.’s West Coast, Taiga had developed that interest, ogling the action behind every hotel lobby bar he passed.

Although Taiga has pursued his interest in the hotel and restaurant industry since moving to Las Vegas three years ago, working as a server and studying the industry, he found where he really wanted to be was behind the bar. When the Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino was being developed, he got even more inspired. “I felt it was going to be a perfect fit.” And it was, it seemed—Taiga was on staff when the Lucky Dragon opened.

Outside of work, Taiga keeps busy, hitting the gym, checking out the work of other bartenders around town and studying mixology at every chance he gets. At work, you’ll primarily find Taiga at the laid-back Atrium Bar on the second level of the Lucky Dragon. Anyone can be a bartender, he says, but he strives to give each guest “genuine service.” And, we’re sure, a flash of that appealing smile.

Secret Garden

When the Lucky Dragon decided to develop a cocktail based around The Botanist Gin, it held a contest for its bartenders—and Taiga came out with the winner. Taiga’s Secret Garden, intended to be a variation on a hot toddy, features the “sustainably foraged” gin, freshly brewed passionfruit tea (from a tea bud), a homemade ginger-honey syrup and lemon juice. All those elements add up to a warm, fragrant, light drink that, as Taiga said, will “speak for itself.”