In a small sauce pot, stir together 1 cup of water and sugar. If using vanilla pods, remove seeds from pod and add seeds to water / sugar mix. Save the pods. Cook over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes or until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Remove the vanilla seeds and save.
Transfer sugar water to a jar and refrigerate until completely cool.
In pitcher, stir together lemon juice, cooled sugar syrup, remaining 3 cups of water, and vanilla extract if not using vanilla seeds. Fill rest of pitcher with ice.
Serve, preferably in mason jars for old time sake, with lemon wedges, mint leaves, and vanilla pods / seeds.