Sunderland’s 60s cocktail champ and the man who made a motorbike on his kitchen table

Brian Winter, in action on the bike he made on his kitchen table.
Brian Winter, in action on the bike he made on his kitchen table.
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What do an expert cocktail mixer and a man who made his own racing motorbike have in common?

The answer is they shared the headlines in the Sunderland Echo in the early 1960s, alongside stars such as Helen Shapiro and Jon Pertwee.

Tommy Dixon, the man who hoped to bring the British title for cocktail making back to Sunderland in the early 1960s.

Tommy Dixon, the man who hoped to bring the British title for cocktail making back to Sunderland in the early 1960s.

The King of Cocktails was Tommy Dixon, who was on his way to the national cocktail championships.

Master of the racing machines was Brian Winter who was hoping to make it to the TT races - with the bike he tuned on his kitchen table.

Our question is - did both men achieve their dreams and can Echo readers fill in the blanks.

Brian, who was 37 at the time, made the Echo under the headline of “Table Top Tuning.”

The judges presumably follow wine-tasting practice and do not swallow the beverages they are offered. So there is no danger of them leaving the examination room in an alcoholic haze, having awarded first prize to the third pink elephant on the left

Sunderland Echo reporter, 1962

The Farringdon man was a joiner by trade, but he was also a road racing enthusiast.

Our report of 1962 said: “In slow stages, he has built for himself a machine that can reach over 130 miles per hour and keep Brian in line for a chance to compete in the really big races.”

The bike he created was made up of a Norton frame, Italian wheels, a Manx Norton gearbox and had two interchangeable 500cc and 650cc engines.

It cost him £150 to piece together but experts reckoned it was worth at least £500 if he ever sold it.

But back in 1962, there was no chance of that. Not while he was competing against the best and picking up enough qualifying points to become eligible for an international licence.

that allowed him to drive in the big events overseas.

At the time, he said: “My real ambition is to race in the Isle of Man TT but it all costs money.”

Did Brian get his dream come true? We would love to know more.

Also in the news was Tommy Dixon, 34, who was a barman at the Grand Hotel in Sunderland at the time.

His claim to fame was that he qualified for the national finals of the British Cocktail Mixing Championships and that meant a trip to London.

Our report at the time said: “When the national competition for professional cocktail shakers was announced, hubdreds of entrants submitted recipes.

“Teams of tasters reduced these to a shortlist of 12 and these finalsists’ drinks were going before the experts today.”

There was a cautionary note as well to the story - just in case readers got the wrong impression.

“The judges presumably follow wine-tasting practice and do not swallow the beverages they are offered,” said our reporter.

“So there is no danger of them leaving the examination room - the cocktail bar of a London hotel - in an alcoholic haze, having awarded first prize to the third pink elephant on the left.”

Tommy was hoping for success with his entry and here is the recipe.

One part liqueur of cointreau, one part liqueur of lemon squash, two dashes of grenadine. Shake well, Top with soda in an 8oz glass.

It was a winner with regulars at the Grand Hotel in Sunderland, but did it wow the judges? Can anyone tell us how Tommy did?

He certainly had a history of doing well.

Tommy, of Belford Street in Horden, had been a barman for 12 years, and had mixed thousands of drinks at hotels in Sunderland, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Stirling.

In our interview in 1963, he remembered one incident where a man once asked him for a drink consisting of a dash from every bottle on the shelves.

“He lapsed into silence after taking one or two sips and left the bar hurriedly,” said Tommy at the time.

It was a year to remember in Sunderland that year. Helen Shapiro, Lenny The Lion, and Jon Pertwee were starring at the Empire.

You could go Top Rank dancing at the Rink ballroom to Bill Sowerby and his orchestra, or watch John Wayne in The Comancheros at the Royal.

Tell us more about Sunderland in the 1960s. And if you can tell us more about whether Brian and Tommy realised their dreams, email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk