Add about a sugar cubes worth of sugar to a mixing glass
Drown the sugar in bitters **(about 4-5 dashes)**
Optionally, add a pinch of salt
Add an appropriate amount of whiskey **(~2oz or more to taste)**
Stir ingredients around to let sugar dissolve a bit
Fill with ice and stir until cold
Strain into a heavy bottomed old fashioned glass with a large ice cube
Express orange peel and rub around rim of glass before dropping it into the drink
Garnish with dried fruit if appropriate
Since I tend to like whiskey neat, I didn't like most Old Fashioneds, because they just seemed like a sweeter, watered down glass of whiskey. Using overproofed whiskey solves this issue, because the rest of the cocktail accentuates the flavors, while bringing it down to a more sippable proof.
Alternatively, if I buy a new whiskey (or really any brown spirit), and don't think it's good enough to sip on its own, I find that it can usually be salvaged **(or at least serviceable)** by some variation on this Old Fashioned template.
I like the purist approach of drowning regular granulated sugar in bitters to make a slurry **(which usually doesn't fully dissolve)**. It's the easiest way to do things (as opposed to making simple syrup or using some other type of syrup), and has a comforting, familiar taste, even if it doesn't result in the most precise or consistent final product **(sort of how I like the undissolved granulated sugar at the bottom of a Dunkin iced coffee)**.
That being said, a simple tweak I also enjoy is using agave syrup instead of sugar. The agave syrup has a better mouthfeel than regular simple syrup because of its increased viscosity. Depending on how chewy the base spirit you're using is, that can really help round out the drink **(less chewy spirit requiring additional viscosity)**. Double strength simple syrup would likely achieve a similar result, but I usually prefer the flavor profile of the agave syrup.
Using a lot of bitters **(and to a lesser extent, the pinch of salt)** is especially important in this cocktail, because of the simplicity of ingredients. Bitters act as a flavor enhancer in cocktails similar to salt and pepper in regular food, so just as it's important to season a steak to bring out its underlying flavors, it's important to season an Old Fashioned.
The orange peel gives the drink a nice citrusy nose, and complements the flavor of most bourbon and rye whiskey. I also occasionally enjoy subbing in dried **(and optionally sweetened)** fruit as a garnish. Dried orange slices work well, but depending on the flavor profile of the base spirit, dried mango, apple, etc are good garnishes.
Notice that I mention fruit peel and dried fruit, but not fresh fruit. You don't want to use fresh fruit, because it will water down the drink too much, and generally turn it into a fruit juice flavored monstrosity **(if you want a fruit forward cocktail, try a [daiquiri](/daiquiri.html) or [margarita](/margarita.html))**. The twist, or piece of dried fruit adds a nice, restrained flavor pop, but 'Serious minded persons omit fruit salad from Old Fashioneds', so don't muddle the fruit into the drink.
The old fashioned is more a template than a specific cocktail, so it's relatively easy to riff on the general formula. Substituting rum, tequila, or some other base spirit is usually a straightforward way to produce a drinkable variation. The sweetening agent can also be substituted as necessary. The Godfather cocktail, for example is simply an Old fashioned with Scotch as the base spirit and amaretto as the sweetener. Oaxacan old fashioned is a similar template with tequila.
Using the Godfather variation with a peaty scotch as the base spirit, and amaretto as the sweetener results in a cocktail with a flavor profile reminiscent of an infused cigar.
It's important to note that branching out from regular sugar or syrups to liqueurs is much harder than it seems, because each liqueur tends to have its own assertive flavor profile, and they all have varying effective sweetness, meaning that harmonizing their flavor profile with the rest of the drink is a complicated affair.
Personal old fashioned experimentation
[Sohla's Brown Butter Old Fashioned](https://www.hellosohla.com/recipe-search/brown-butter-old-fashioned-recipe)