The oldest definition of "cocktail" (from 1806!) says that a "cocktail is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters." Nowadays, "cocktail" can mean any number of things, but the original definition still exists today as an Old Fashioned, which is probably the most American cocktail you can drink and was very popular in the 1960s. So break out the skinny tie, tuck in that pocket square, channel your inner Don Draper and pour yourself an Old Fashioned!
2 ounces bourbon or rye (I prefer bourbon)
1/4 ounce 2:1 simple syrup (demerara or turbinado sugar is preferred -- use 1/2 ounce if you use 1:1 simple syrup)
2 dashes of Angostura bitters (or any other old fashioned style bitters)
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir well. Strain into a lowball glass with one large ice cube. Twist an orange peel over the drink and toss it in.
Traditionalists who just read my recipe likely threw up in their mouths a bit. The traditional way to prepare an Old Fashioned is to place a sugar cube in your glass, top with bitters and maybe a bit of water. Then muddle the soaked sugar cube until it dissolves and top with bourbon or rye. I hate this method. The sugar rarely is incorporated well and no one wants a gritty drink. Simple syrup fixes this problem.
Also, by stirring the drink separately, you end up properly diluting the drink. When you pour it in your glass with one large ice cube, you keep the drink cold but slow any further dilution. For all of you nerds out there, it has to do with the surface area to volume ratio of the ice (that discussion is reserved for another post).
A few final notes. Demerara or turbinado sugar is raw sugar and has a nice molasses flavor that adds another level of complexity to the drink. You don't need to go find it if you don't have it as regular simple syrup will still make a tasty drink. Other than the orange peel, an Old Fashioned should NOT have any fruit! This is not a Tiki cocktail so leave the fruit in the fridge. Or just eat the fruit separately; you need to balance all this alcohol with something healthy!