Cognac's golden age may be over, but Mexico's tequila is becoming the 'hot shot' in China due to its uncanny similarity to local brews. 'Sales are taking off over the border because customers say it resembles their own local distilled spirits,' Dennis Lim, regional marketing manager for Jose Cuervo International, said. 'But, of course, our tequila is better quality and tastes a lot better.' Having cornered a 70 per cent share of the Hong Kong market, Jose Cuervo had now embarked on a major mainland marketing campaign and captured a similarly-sized slice of the China pie, he said. Sales rose 180 per cent last year, the company said. 'Tequila is regarded as a young drink which is trendy and the Chinese are enthusiastic about all the novel ways of drinking it - especially the tequila slammers and the traditional pinch of salt and bite of fresh lemon.' Jose Cuervo was Mexico's first official distiller, established in 1895 in the town of Tequila, and is still the world's best-selling brand. The brand continues to show healthy growth world- wide. 'Global sales are up about six per cent this year,' Alan Weber, vice-president of marketing, said. Jose Cuervo is such a 'hot shot' that the owners have just established a new nation honouring the liquor on a tiny island in the Caribbean, dubbed the Republic of Cuervo Gold. Its promotional campaign revolves around a new 'nation of untamed spirits'. Customers in bars can even apply for citizenship in the new nation and are urged to sign a petition that supports membership in the United Nations. 'How can we be a country and not have a navy?' Mr Weber added, explaining that Jose Cuervo had even launched two boats that plied coastal US waters stopping at seaside bars and restaurants. This is precisely the image Mr Lim hopes to promote in mainland China. 'It's a fun, party drink,' he said. 'We want to associate Jose Cuervo with excitement and good times.'