10 Top Happy Hour Deals

Places across the country that go above and beyond cheap drinks

It's 5:30 p.m. and you're leaving the office after an extremely hectic day. Bar-bound with a group of friends, you have but a singular purpose in mind: happy hour.

Despite the concept's inherent and obvious appeal, thoroughly enjoying that après work weekday drink involves much more than simply knocking a few cheap ones back. Because there's nothing worse than stumbling upon a bum happy hour marked by watered down drinks, bad service, or overall lackluster atmosphere, we've determined the top factors that keep bars off the "never again" list.

For one, happy hour, despite its name, should never be just one hour. Folks need at least a couple hours to unwind and de-stress, not to mention the fact that there needs to be some consideration for people who get out of work on the later side. Another important factor? No skimping on the alcohol! Yes, the price of the drinks dips, but that doesn't mean the standards of the bar should too. And a good pour in a well-balanced drink is the sign of a good bartender — another key to a successful happy hour (and to a bar in general).

Rounding out the checklist are food and atmosphere. Whether it's free hot dogs or bargain-priced gourmet snacks, sustenance is essential when you're imbibing at a happy hour. As for the vibe of the venue, good lighting (you should be able to see the drink in front of you) and a reasonable music level (no shouting required) are important.

Click here for the 10 Top Happy Hour Deals Slideshow.